A café terrace in Amsterdam.
AMSTERDAM–The mayors of the four largest Dutch cities have reacted angrily to the announcement that pavement cafés and restaurant terraces will not open until April 28 at the earliest.
The Dutch caretaker cabinet confirmed in a statement on Sunday that outdoor catering would not restart on April 21, as suggested in a report leaked last week, because of the high number of patients in intensive care.
The mayors said a limited reopening of terraces was urgently needed to ensure the “credibility of the coronavirus measures.” They argued that licensed outdoor catering was more effective than letting people drink together informally in parks.
They warned that “enforcement will be unachievable and local authorities will be unwillingly pitted against their own residents” if the lockdown is extended deep into the spring.
Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb said it was becoming impossible to police outdoor spaces as the days become longer and warmer. “People are standing too close together,” he told NOS Radio 1 Journaal. “We can only enforce the rules with a water cannon, but that’s an aggressive way to deal with your population. Reasonable enforcement, as we call it, is no longer possible.”
Catering trade organisation KHN said the decision was “a hard slap in the face for restaurant and café owners.” It argued that the sector had already drawn up plans to reopen terraces safely.
Network of Orange Associations KBOV chairman Pieter Verhoeve said the cabinet should look at reopening terraces in time for King’s Day on April 27. “King’s Day is a holiday, and many people are trying to find a meaningful way to celebrate it,” he said.
However, there was relief among many hospital staff, who were dismayed to hear last week that government was looking to ease restrictions, while nearly three-quarters of intensive care beds are occupied by coronavirus patients.
“This is tough for people who had hoped for or counted on restrictions being eased. But they are still badly needed, because it is all hands on deck in our hospitals. First, we need to get the virus under control, get more people vaccinated and reduce the pressure on hospitals. Then we can slowly but surely start returning to normal, but I think it is going to take another few weeks,” said Dutch hospitals’ association NVZ board chairman Ad Melkert.