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What we fear

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Brussels Beer Project, Wanderlust on the Roof 2020

Brussels has closed down its bars for a month in a shock move last week, leaving many unprepared and with taps full and supplies on order. The Beer Idiots believe this directive makes no sense given that it leaves restaurants open but the bars closed.

It is not that we want everything closed. It is just there is no sense or consistency as to what the city’s government is doing.

For example, what signal to the people does it send when masks are no longer required outdoors because people did not respect the original requirement? It is a bit like saying – no one respects using seatbelts so let’s remove the law.

Yes, we are in this position partially or mostly because a lot of people did not respect the requirements to keep their fellow citizens safe. We do have a responsibility.

The mask doesn’t protect us so much as it protects others around us and is the main means of keeping the economy going. Covid-19 is bad in Brussels. It is cited as the second worse city in Europe for Covid-19 cases and at least one Brussels hospital is full.

However, to cure the patient one does not have to kill the patient (the old joke, we cured the disease, but the patient died). There are ways of being safe and keeping bars, bottle-shops and brewers alive.

There were those who predicted that half the bars in Belgium would fail during the first lockdown. After a relatively decent summer, this partial lockdown represents the nails in the coffins for some.

Going under or head above water?

Dinka Sarkozi has already announced that she will close Beer Freak Chick, her bottleshop in Ghent. She was in a tough position as her shop was a relatively new startup and was just finding its feet before Covid hit.

Others pledge to solder on and keep the accumulating new beer scene alive in Brussels, and through out Belgium.

Nanobrasserie de l’Ermitage says they have closed the brewery’s taproom again and note that 90% of their production sells within a 15 km radius of Brussels due to the “arbitrary” decision, adding that “today we pay the costs of this philosophy which seems to us more laudable than ever. Courage to all our brewer friends and to all our hospitality customers. We will get up but we’re fed up.”

The Beer Idiots shudder with the thought of the other craft beer bars and traditional bars we all love closing down. We are also especially concerned about their knowledgeable staff, who suffered once and will suffer again. 

According to an article in Bruzz some Brussels brewers get 60% to 80% of their income from sales through the catering industry.

Maxime Dumay of No Science brewer expressed fears of closure to the Bruzz reporter if the shutdown of bars continues for longer than a month. The L’Annexe brewery Gregoir Berthon also called for swift support from the government. 

Many feel the uncertainty about whether the bars will open after a month makes it difficult to know how much to produce.

The bars and breweries will have to go back online and do home deliveries to sell off their stocks.

Let us try and support them, though I fear people’s money for the luxury of great and good beer is running out as more people lose their jobs.

Belgian Brewers issue statement

Finally the Belgian Brewers Federation has something to say about Covid-19. On 7 October the federation issued a statement calling on the government to take measures that are evidence based. 

“Objective and representative data showing that cafes are indeed hotbeds of COVID-19 infections are absolutely lacking,” the Belgian Brewers stated, noting that neighbouring countries show the opposite.

Statistics from neighbouring countries show that in the Netherlands only 3% of infections take place in the HoReCa sector, compared to 53% at home, 15.5% in the family and 7.8% at work, the federation states.

Those stats should be taken with a grain of salt however. I don’t think contact tracing is that developed to be able to determine that closely who caught what where.

The federation also questions the “inexplicable” differentiation between cafes, bars and tea rooms on the one hand, and restaurants, brasseries and snacks on the other. We agree.

“We also fear chaos, given the many hybrid HoReCa projects such as cafes that also offer snacks or a limited number of meals,” adds Nathalie Poissonnier, Director of Belgian Brewers. “In addition, it affects not only the HoReCa industry, but also a whole range of suppliers, including brewers. The entire industry has seen a significant drop in sales since the start of the COVID-19 crisis. The reopening of the restaurant business gave us hope that we could still keep losses to a minimum. With this new measure, that hope also vanishes.”

The Belgian Brewers therefore support HoReCa Vlaanderen in their request to make the data public so that policy for the sector can be built on factual data.

The Belgian Brewers message: “Anyone who still wants to be able to enjoy a cold beer at a local cafe in the near future has to play by the rules today. Not only in HoReCa, but everywhere else. While the majority of infections occur in the home, family and work, cafes and breweries are paying the price today. And if that’s not a good enough reason, do it for the people you love. To break the rules is to play with lives.”

No lockdown, but stricter measures are a blow to cafés

Across Belgium, the government says the measures to reduce bar and cafe hours are due to rising rates of infection and more corona patients also ending up in hospitals. 

Drinking establishments are particularly affected as a research report shows that the infections that take place in the catering industry mainly take place there, the government stated.

Cafés, canteens and other drinking establishments must close at 11 pm, apart from the additional measure imposed in Brussels.

In Flemish Belgium, about 10,000 café and drinking establishments will receive support.

A maximum of 4 people per table is allowed in cafes, canteens and other drinking establishments. Family members in the same household can sit together regardless of their numbers.

A maximum of 10 people per table is allowed in restaurants and banquet halls.

 

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