Restaurants re-open Bonn waives fees for outdoor gastronomy

Bonn · Restaurants and pubs are re-opening. The city is waiving fees for outdoor gastronomy. The hotel association Dehoga fears that every third business is threatened by an existential crisis.

 In Buena Vida Havana, guests can enjoy a cold beer again. Photo: Benjamin Westhoff

In Buena Vida Havana, guests can enjoy a cold beer again. Photo: Benjamin Westhoff

Foto: Benjamin Westhoff

Since Monday the restaurants and pubs are allowed to open again. But under strict conditions. Even though many innkeepers are happy about the opening, some are not very optimistic about the future. Many are expecting a sharp drop in turnover.

Ragnar Fleischmann is happy that the Nyx will be open again on Monday. "We have drawn up a plan on how we need to reposition the tables in order to comply with the distance rules," he tells the GA. If guests come then, one will have to improvise a bit. He himself looks to the future with mixed feelings. "Some colleagues hope to achieve half of their normal turnover. I think it will be a third at most.“

Salah Cheko has been running the Buena Vida Havana near Poppelsdorf Castle since 2014. The 35-year-old is expecting a drop in sales of at least 50 percent. "In the end, it depends on how many will come," he tells the GA with a view to the number of guests.

In the early afternoon, half a dozen guests will be there. All of them are seated at a minimum distance of one and a half meters from each other. Normally, he has always categorically refused reservations. Now he must take them. "But we will only accept reservations for four or more people," he says. In the back of his restaurant there are several large tables. "For me this is a disaster." If a couple sat down at one of the tables, it would be completely occupied. The current support, such as the emergency aid for the self-employed and the reduction of the VAT, does help, says Cheko. "If I had normal operations, the VAT would certainly help a lot. But with the lower turnover, it's difficult.“

Francis Faramaz is still busy on Monday afternoon, rearranging things. He runs the Salvator Inn downtown. "We want to do it right, of course," he says. After all, the city controls the restaurants. He says he has lost 40 percent of his capacity in the inner area. But the cooperation with the city works very well, he emphasizes. "We have good contacts there." He sees no problems for the outside area. "In a week or two, things will be back to normal," he predicts. He sees hard times ahead for gastronomy without outdoor areas. "Those without a terrace are dead."

The restaurant Perú Deputamare in the Castell district has already had to give up. "Because of Corona, we are now closed," Raul Palomino tells the GA. "The fixed costs were just too high." The 9000 Euro in emergency aid was only enough for one month. "We didn't see a future for this year. If we had stayed there, we would have been heavily in debt. And we didn't want that." He doesn't know yet what'll happen. "We'll take a break and wait until things calm down." That won't happen until next year, Palomino said. Then he hopes to reopen the restaurant.

No fees for outdoor dining areas

Michael Schlößer is chairman of the German Hotel and Restaurant Association (Dehoga), Bonn district group. "In general it has been well received", he says about the opening. "Everyone is committed to the cause." But the problems do not simply stop there. One of the core problems are the fixed costs. Because rent, purchase and salaries of the employees are not decreasing. "The costs are now starting to rise again. Nevertheless, the restaurants can no longer make the same turnover as before. We are still of the opinion that 30 percent of the companies are threatened with extinction," says Schlößer.

Meanwhile, Lord Mayor Ashok Sridharan has announced that the city will waive special user fees for outdoor restaurants in 2020. Retailers will also not have to pay any fees for the displaying of goods in front of shops this year. In this way, Sridharan wants to relieve both sectors. With this decision, the city is waiving revenues of more than 600,000 Euro. More space would also be allowed for outdoor gastronomy. The prerequisite is that the expansions do not cause "traffic obstructions".

Waiting for customers

Ali Samadi is optimistic. He runs the Taperia De Dos in Bad Godesberg. "We all have the same problems." Since Monday, he's reopened his restaurant. Three people come in the afternoon. He had to move several tables to get the minimum distance. "If I'm lucky, there could be 16 people up there. I've had that at the bar alone before. What happens now is also an experiment for him. "This is new territory for all of us. He could understand that people are scared right now and shy away from going to restaurants. "The punishment is ultimately on the operator." The reduction of the VAT on food, the emergency aid from the state. He thinks it's all a naive assumption. "It's nice that the state is helping," he says. "But I don't think about that sort of thing right now. I'm thinking about how I can pay all my expenses at the end of the month."

Samadi's colleagues don't take the risk of opening their restaurants for the time being. "I actually wanted to open on Friday," says Faisal Issa, who has run the old forge in the Mehlem district for seven years. Now he wants to wait and see whether people go out more. "My regulars are people over 40 or 50, and they're a bit more careful these days." Another reason for his hesitation to reopen his steakhouse is the cost. "The store is currently empty. If we open now, I'll have to buy everything new and re-prepare it." And if in a fortnight the infection rates rise again? Then he could throw it all away again. He doesn't want to take that kind of financial risk.

Mo Mardami also wants to wait until his restaurant reopens. He runs the Limao in Bad Godesberg. He is sceptical that the state aid will really help the restaurants. "The 7 percent VAT only works if the turnover is right." He says it's a nice gesture, but in the end it's useless. The whole thing is not thought through. "We live partly off our cinema-goers. But the cinema is closed.“

Alen Nabaty, who runs the restaurant Zum Treppchen near the Puetzchens Markt festival square, tries to look on the bright side. "The whole country is in trouble at the moment," he says. "We're making the best of it." Usually the months of June and July are rather weak in sales, because many are on holiday. "But if people can't travel this year, they will stay here and go to the restaurants." And when Puetzchens Market is held again next year, the rush will be twice as big. And so will the demand in his restaurant, Nabaty hopes.

Original text: Thomas Leurs. Translation: Mareike Graepel

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