Guests flock to terraces of Dutch cafes as lockdown gets easier


UTRECHT, The Netherlands (AP) – Lisa Gerritsen and Eva Diks were the first guests in six months to be served on Wednesday at Café Le Journal on Neude Square in the Dutch city of Utrecht.

First from a long line to sit, they chose a table in the sun, ordered a bottle of rosé wine and glasses of water and planned to make it a day.

“We have waited so long. We were here at 11 o’clock. Fantastic, ”said Gerritsen, a 19-year-old college student. “We plan to stay here until 6 p.m.”

The Netherlands on Wednesday became the last European country to start cautiously easing its lockdown even as infection rates and intensive care occupancy rates remain stubbornly high.

The Dutch are following Italy, Greece, France and other European countries to reopen the company and move away from economically crippling lockdowns in the coming weeks.

A curfew that sparked riots when it was introduced across the country in January has been lifted and shoppers have been allowed to visit non-essential stores without making an appointment first, though numbers are limited.

Bars and cafes were allowed to reopen their outdoor terraces for the first time in six months, but some owners were unhappy with terms they said will make it nearly impossible to earn a profit.

Terraces are only authorized between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. for a maximum of two socially distant people per table, unless they are from the same household.

Alex Celik, owner of Italian restaurant Il Pozzo on the old canal that runs through Utrecht city center, lamented that it has to close when Dutch customers want to sit down for an evening meal.

“From noon to 6 pm, it’s nothing for the hotel industry,” he said. “Closing at 6 pm, people will take food and go to the park. It won’t work so well. It would have been much better if we could open until 8am.

He showed a recent photo he took during the lockdown of around 250 people eating and drinking along the canal where he is now only allowed to accept 50 customers.

His comments echoed the country’s hospitality lobby group, which criticized the hours of operation, saying guests would leave the terraces and move elsewhere, making it harder to adhere to social distancing and hygiene rules .

The country’s public health institute reported on Tuesday that infections had risen slightly over the past week to just over 55,000 while hospital admissions declined very slightly. More than 17,000 people are confirmed to have died from COVID-19 in the Netherlands.

After being the last country in the European Union to start its vaccination campaign, the Netherlands, a country of around 17.4 million people, has now administered around 5.3 million vaccines.

Gerritsen said she had mixed feelings about soaking up the sun and wine as hospital staff battled the COVID-19 crisis.

“It’s hard for those who work in health care to be so busy and for us to be sitting here on a patio,” she said. “We’re allowed to do it now, but it’s really difficult.”

The reopening came a day after the Netherlands’ annual King’s Day celebration, which saw large crowds of revelers congregate in most towns, most ignoring social distancing guidelines.

“We can regulate things a lot better,” said Eddy Schouten, owner of Cafe Het Neutje.

For Pamela Kuijper-Hartman and Sven Hartman, Wednesday was important for much more than the reopening of the terraces.

The couple got married at Utrecht town hall at 11 a.m. and then walked around the corner to La Neude where they sat with a small group of guests at socially tables. away and had a drink in the spring sun.

“Perfect timing,” Kuijper-Hartman said.


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