Hungary’s Terraces will be reopening on Saturday, according to Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office Gergely Gulyás’ statement in Thursday’s government press conference. Restaurants, cafés, and pubs will be allowed to provide outdoor service until 9:30 pm, and the curfew has been modified to require people to be home by 11 pm at the latest. While business will no doubt be booming this weekend, their long-term survivability is still being discussed due to the impact the pandemic has had.
There is no doubt that many have been avidly watching Hungary’s vaccination rate increase over the past few days, knowing that it is the determining factor of terraces reopening.
According to Gulyás, the 3.5 million mark is expected to be reached by Friday. He described the Saturday reopening of catering businesses as “the first step towards regaining freedom.”
Hungary’s Terraces Prepare for Saturday Reopening
After being closed for months, restaurants, cafés, and pubs are ready for providing outdoor service with adherence to Covid regulations.
Viktor Orbán announced on April 14 that once 3.5 million people in Hungary are vaccinated, catering businesses will be allowed to reopen for outdoor service.
The prime minister expected the number to be reached by Wednesday or Thursday of this week, but since vaccinations slowed down a bit, this number is now expected for Friday, since 81 thousand people still need to be vaccinated. There is little doubt that terraces will get remarkably busy over the weekend.
Catering Association President Shares Concerns
President of the Hungarian Hospitality Employers’ Association (VIMOSZ), Zoltán Gál Pál, said last week that the entire service sector must be reopened in steps and with adherence to Covid restrictions.
This week Gál appeared on ATV speaking about reopening again, raising the question of how long customers will be able to go out to eat and drink. The pandemic has taken a toll on people’s wallets, and while the months spent in lockdown will no doubt bring businesses a lot of revenue upon reopening, long term income has been raised as a concern.
Gál brought up a few other issues, such as the weather and funds determining whether certain businesses can even reopen at all. He also mentioned that while the removal of the terrace fee is beneficial, it does not apply to restaurants in plazas.
Furthermore, many in the catering industry have left their place of employment due to a lack of work during lockdown, and many restaurants, cafés, and pubs may face worker shortages. The need to make up for these shortages, as well as the months of no business, will likely lead to higher prices for service.
Vaccination to Ensure Success of Restaurants
Gál told Blikk that the “larger wave of bankruptcy is yet to come,” but that there will be a lot of traffic in the beginning, and many restaurants are already booked up. He believes that once customers can be provided service indoors too, the lack of a workforce will be an especially significant factor to consider.
Before they can begin operating, businesses must restock and check the warranties of their beverages. This could cost 1.5-2 million forints (4128-5504 EUR) for small businesses and up to 10 million (27,520 EUR) for larger ones.
The catering association president also stressed that vaccination willingness must not wane, and those working in the industry should definitely get vaccinated.
Virologist Supports Terraces, Advocates Vaccine
Virologist and virus researcher Miklós Rusvai considers it an excellent idea to reopen restaurants, and will be going to his favorite place at the first opportunity. In an interview with Alfahír, Rusvai said that it would be good to “connect terrace reopening with immunity status, this could later be introduced at sporting events as well.”
While Rusvai may support the reopening of terraces, he has described the government’s reliance on first jab vaccinations to be risky. He has also stated that a full reopening of the country would only be safe if the pandemic was weakened to the level it was at before September of 2020.
Rusvai believes that providing benefits to the immunity certificate would increase Hungarians’ willingness to be vaccinated.
While the long-term survivability of restaurants and the impacts of the pandemic cannot be forgotten, this weekend Hungarians can take a break to enjoy their favorite drink at their restaurant of chose.
Featured photo illustration by Attila Balázs/MTI