The mass reopening of stores movement is having little success in achieving its goal of mobilizing restaurants, cafés, and pubs around Hungary to reopen despite restrictions. While a few hundred people have been actively protesting coronavirus restrictions, catering businesses seem to remain silent.
Whether it was due to the harshened restrictions the government put in place or the sudden payment of wage subsidies, restaurants which have previously stated that they will reopen on the first of February have changed their minds.
Protestors gathered at Heroes’ Square for their second day of demonstrations on Monday. Among them were the Ecsenyi brothers and their party members, as well as frustrated café, pub, and restaurant workers and their employers.
Áron Ecsenyi and his brother Szilárd are facing a 9,854 euro fine for their responsibility in facilitating the protests of Sunday and Monday. They have announced that their next demonstration will be held on Sunday, in front of the parliament.
Following their first day, the twins were fined 4,223 euros, but after Monday, when 2-300 people showed up again, they were fined another 5,631 euros.
Áron Ecsenyi, leader of the libertarian Down With 75% of Taxes party, said in a statement that the fines will not stop them, they will continue to attack restrictions with a movement which, according to them, is growing.
The party said that around Europe, libertarians are protesting the unsustainable and immoral restrictions of their governments.
FactThe TASZ (Hungarian Civil Liberties Union) said that not only the organizers, but participants of the event can be fined by police, since they are breaking laws around gathering in groups. TASZ has already made a form available on its website for those who were fined to call on the court to lower the amount they were fined.
Catering Industry Not Entirely On Board with Ecsenyi’s Movement
Ecsenyi’s careless relation of the protestors to the libertarian camp is quite inaccurate. As videos of the demonstrations show, many of those in attendance did not take part because of antigovernmental or libertarian values, they are simply restaurant, pub, and café workers who want their jobs back.
Furthermore, the Down With 75% of Taxes party has not been completely honest regarding the mass opening of stores movement. A map can be found on their website which shows all the businesses which allegedly reopened on February first.
According to Ecsenyi, more than 50 stores have reopened around the country. However, this is highly misleading, since the map has proven inaccurate.
Balázs Borda, owner of Resti Café and Pub in Nagykanizsa, also told Azonnali that he was the one who started the mass opening of stores movement, but following the increased severity of the sanctions the government has put in place, he has decided not to open his store.
Zsuzsanna Magyar, owner of Pikoló Pub, told the news portal that she has also taken her name off the map, since one of her friends, who is also a catering business owner, said it is not worth it. Still, both of their stores are present on Ecsenyi’s map.
Owner of Kira Vendéglő in Békéscsaba, Géza Ásós found out that his pub is on the map of the mass store openings, even though he had made no statement of intention to take part in the event.
The Restrictions Protests Have Happened, but Which Stores Have Reopened?
Another strange detail is that while the highlight of this event would have been the mass reopening of stores on February first, neither the libertarian party’s nor the movement’s Facebook pages have shared any information on stores which have reopened. This is the case even in the public media at the moment, where the focus has only been on the protests.
Still, the restrictions protests themselves have proven fruitful, since, accoring to independent MP Ákos Hadházy, November and December wage subsidies for catering workers have finally arrived, ironically during the weekend.
By the looks of it, however, there is currently no evidence of a mass reopening of stores, and the movement seems to be shifting in the direction of continued protests.
While the focus of Áron Ecsenyi’s movement is to allow catering businesses to function, the movement is beginning to have political elements to it.
Featured photo illustration by Attila Balázs/MTI