Unease in Greece as restaurants, cafes reopen

ATHENS (AFP) – Restaurants and cafes across Greece opened ahead of schedule yesterday as the country prepared to launch a shortened tourism season vital to its economy.

But with social distancing rules limiting businesses to around 50 per cent capacity, and only outdoor tables allowed, many owners questioned the wisdom of reopening after a lockdown of over two months.

“We have to disinfect everything all the time… we’d have to hire someone to clean up and keep track of the customers… but are unable to do that,” cafe owner Vangelis Daskalopoulos told AFP in Athens.

“I don’t know how we’re going to manage,” he said, adding that he was torn between his fear of the virus and the need to keep his business running. Despite the misgivings of some like Daskalopoulos, patrons were happy for the chance to socialise in cafes again.

“I’m thrilled to break the isolation of recent months and reconnect with friends,” said pensioner Giorgos Karavatsanis.

“The cafe in Greece has a social dimension, it’s where the heart of the district beats,” he said.

But some three in 10 cafes or restaurants were predicted to stay closed out of fear of slow business, Nikos Nifoudis of the Thessaloniki Catering Initiative told Athens News Agency over the weekend.

“The sector is very anxious to see how returning to business will play out… no one can predict how confident customers are to return to cafes and restaurants,” he said.

A restaurant waiter writes on a paper in Monastiraki district of Athens. PHOTO: AP