Faced with a worrying rise in infections, major German cities, including Berlin, have imposed nighttime restrictions on bars and restaurants from Saturday.
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In Berlin, establishments will have to close their doors from Saturday evening between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., a time slot that usually sees tens of thousands of people strolling every weekend in the capital where many bars remain open all night.
These restrictions, which affect all stores except pharmacies and gas stations, will be in place until at least October 31. The sale of alcohol in gas stations will also be prohibited.
Frankfurt took a similar measure, which went into effect on Friday evening, with the closure of bars and restaurants and the ban on the sale of alcohol between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
“Coup de grace”
And on Saturday morning, it was Cologne, the capital of the most populous region, North Rhine-Westphalia, which announced a similar measure from 10 p.m.
Another large German city, Hamburg, has opted for the compulsory wearing of a mask in public places from Monday.
In Berlin, this is another very hard blow for the city’s economy, already hard hit by the closure of clubs for several months.
The nightlife of the German capital is an essential component of the city’s economy. The clubs alone brought the city over € 1.5 billion in 2018.
But the epidemic situation is worrying in the capital, with more than 400 new cases daily. Berlin is now classified as a “risk zone”.
“This is not the time to party”, justified the social democratic mayor of the capital, Michael Müller. “We can and we want to prevent another more severe confinement”, he added, addressing more particularly those under 40 years old.
Angela Merkel herself pleaded for this measure on Friday after a discussion with the mayors of the eleven largest cities.
“I am fully aware that restrictions such as closing time, strict rules for the sale of alcohol are binding and that the restaurant sector is hit hard,” said the Chancellor.
“But we must do what is most important to us this fall and this winter,” she added, setting as “priorities” keeping the economy afloat and the pursuit of school activities.
“After three glasses of wine, we respect a little less the barrier gestures”, summarized Dirk Behrendt, in charge of Justice in Berlin.
The Bars of Berlin collective considers this measure “disastrous” and is working on a possible legal remedy.
This curfew, unheard of in the capital since 1949, risks, according to him, a “coup de grace to bars”, warns Roberto Manteufel, one of the members of the collective.
With these imposed schedules, “the world is watching Berlin. I do not understand how the mayor can destroy the largest economic sector in his city, it’s incredible, “denounces to AFP Mike Stolz, owner of a Berlin bar, who also intends to take legal action.
Berlin had some 9,800 restaurant chains in 2018, including more than 1,700 bars or pubs, according to the Statista institute.
In Frankfurt too, the discontent is mounting. The Frankfurt Gastronomy Initiative association thus threatens to file appeals against a closure measure likely to lead, according to it, to wild gatherings in the street.
To prevent this risk, the city of Berlin has decided to severely restrict social contacts.
From now on, between 11:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m., outdoor gatherings should not exceed five people. During the day, this gauge remains fixed at 50.
It did not prevent, according to the police, “several thousand” opponents to the wearing of masks to participate, without notable incident, in a silent march in the center of Berlin on Saturday afternoon.
These restrictions are even stronger for indoor gatherings, limited to 10 people.
These measures mainly target home evenings and illegal parties, which the Berlin authorities consider as propagators of the new coronavirus.