After months of struggling to stay in business due to the sharp drop in revenues caused by pandemic restrictions, certain catering businesses in Hungary are beginning to announce their re-opening in opposition of the government.
In an act of rebellion against restrictions, Központ (Center), a pub in Madách Square, Budapest, opened its doors for take-out on Friday. Hungarian authorities reacted quickly, giving the pub a 60 day suspension and a 1400 euro fine.
The owners of Központ told Telex that for the past few months they have only been able to deliver to homes, and that the January 22nd reopening was done at the expense of their leftover reserves.
They had initially planned to be open from three to seven pm, but half an hour before they would have closed, a “truckful” of police showed up and scared away customers.
The owners said there could not have been more than 15 people lined up outside their store when the police arrived, but according to the statement Hungarian authorities made on their website, as well as photo evidence from volunteers, there were more than 100 people gathered around the establishment before closing hours.
In their statement they also said that a group of people had gathered at another restaurant after 8pm, which was in turn closed for 30 days and the 33 people outside were reported.
Multiple Businesses are Reopening in Hungary
The owners of Központ clearly sent a strong message, and now certain catering businesses around Hungary have announced their reopening.
Citing the absence of any sort of government aid for the past three months, the Resti Pub and Café in Nagykanizsa has announced on its Facebook page that it will open its doors on February first for both customers, police officers, and NAV workers.
The Hungarian Catering Association has responded that Resti’s planned opening is neither lawful nor eligible for support, but given current events, their colleague’s frustration is understandable.
The association said that the owners of Hungary’s catering businesses have run out of reserves, and there are serious issues with the payments of wage subsidies. The organization emphasized that “90 percent of their members still have not received their wage subsidies for November.”
In Miskolc, Lotti Presszó has also announced that starting February first it will once again be awaiting customers, saying that “for the sake of staying in business and maintaining our livelihood, we are reopening regardless of restrictions.”
The Hungarian Hotel and Restaurant Association (MSZÉSZ) wrote in an open letter to its members that closures would remain in effect until Pentecost (May 23). Following a reaction of uproar the statement caused, the government denied the information, and said that it hadn’t made an official decision yet.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced more restrictions on November 11, closing restaurants and hotels, and only allowing delivery options for food. Orbán told Kossuth radio on Friday that restrictions cannot be lifted until the country has been vaccinated.
A European Movement
This resistance towards restrictions is not unique to Hungary. According to an article by Street Kitchen, multiple restaurants, pubs, and cafes are reopening to avoid going bankrupt.
The article says that more and more catering businesses in Poland are announcing their reopening for the sake of their livelihood.
In Austria, police shut down a restaurant immediately after its reopening. The owner said that while the police were only doing their job, there are serious problems with current laws, and someone needs to start the rebellion.
According to the article, in Italy more than ten thousand catering businesses decided on January 16, that they will stay open until 10 rather than the legislated 6 pm.
Clearly, the issue catering businesses are facing needs to be addressed, but the official decision of the government is yet to be determined.
In the featured photo, the empty terraces of restaurants can be seen in Nagykanizsa, November 11 2020. Featured photo by György Varga/MTI