Restaurants reopen in parts of Europe, but diners remain scarce
COPENHAGEN, Denmark – Restaurants and cafes began reopening in parts of Europe and Central Asia on Monday, May 18 after weeks of closures – but despite new safety measures, wary diners stayed away in many cities.
"Today, with the opening of the bars, life in Tirana is taking a breath of fresh air after being locked up in our cages for several weeks," said Sokol Hoti, a young man in his thirties sitting on the terrace of the Santa bar in the Albanian capital.
Under new regulations designed to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, restaurants and bars in the country are supplying hand sanitizer, asking employees to wear gloves and masks, and limiting customers to two per table that must be spaced three meters (nearly 10 feet) apart.
Elsewhere in Europe, restaurants and cafes were also cautiously opening, but hoped-for crowds failed to materialize.
In Rome, at Piazza Navona in the city's historical center, all cafes remained closed except for one with a cheery sign posted outside saying "Good Morning, Welcome for Breakfast" written in English.
Tables were lined up but diners were nowhere in sight.
A few steps away, at the San Eustachio Il Caffe, a favorite among tourists, owner Raimondo Ricci lamented the lack of clients.
"There's no one here. Closed or open it's the same thing," Ricci told AFP.
In Slovenia's Ljubljana, where outdoor service has been open since early May, all restaurants were now free to serve customers.
"People are slowly coming back, but it's hard to predict what's going to happen when local businesses in the area reopen too," Vladimir Mickovic, co-owner of vegan bistro Kucha, told AFP.
Nearby offices and companies have not yet reopened, with many people still working from home, but Kucha hopes business will pick up when they return.
"We might see the number of visitors jumping suddenly, at least we hope."
The restaurateur, who has had to cut his staff from 30 to 10, told AFP their main problem was planning how much food and staff to keep on hand.
Meanwhile, at French bistro L'education nationale in Denmark's capital Copenhagen, Eric Poezevara filled his fridges and was eager to welcome back lunch clients.
"The ambiance is going to be a little strange. People go to restaurants to enjoy themselves, but now, people are going to be a little tense, looking around and thinking 'Do you have corona, or don't you?'," he said.
The restaurant can welcome only half as many guests as usual, in order to respect social distancing rules.
"We'll see if it's worth it," Poezevara said.
'People are scared'
Meanwhile, Cecilia, a 41-year-old yoga teacher, enjoyed a cup of coffee on the terrace of a popular spot in the Copenhagen neighborhood of Norrebro.
"I've been looking forward to just seeing people relaxing in the streets, not hustling around... that sense of people just hanging out," she told AFP.
Many Danish restaurants have said they will stay closed a while longer in order to adapt their reopening to the new regulations.
In Spain, excluding Madrid and Barcelona, and Portugal, cafes and terraces also opened up as the countries continued easing restrictions.
In Kazakhstan's capital Nur-Sultan, patrons were having their temperatures checked at restaurant entrances as waiters donned masks and gloves to serve meals and drinks.
Restaurants opened across Kazakhstan with the exception of Almaty – the country's largest city, which has the highest number of coronavirus cases.
In Azerbaijan, restaurants and cafes also reopened but remained largely deserted, according to an AFP reporter.
Natik Aliyev, a cafe manager in central Baku, told AFP that 4 hours after opening he had only had two customers.
"People are still scared and avoid public spaces," Aliyev said. – Rappler.com