Bonn Restaurants and hair salons have been closed for weeks because of the pandemic. Following a bumpy start, government aid which had been promised for November and December is finally starting to materialize. But some businesses in Bonn are still waiting.
Salah Cheko, the owner of Havana in Poppelsdorf, closed his locale over the holidays and then for renovations until January 10. Since then, he's been providing food for take-out. But things are going slowly. The federal government retroactively increased the first partial payments for November aid from a maximum of 10,000 to 50,000 euros. Cheko has now received the money for November and December. "The rest is still not there." The restaurant proprietor had already expected that the lockdown would be extended: "My hope is that we can reopen from mid-February." At the latest, at the beginning of March, when customers can sit outdoors on the patios again.
The extended lockdown also comes as no surprise to Timo Klein. The owner of Brauhaus Bönnsch located at the Sterntorbrücke is using the down time to renovate. "We want to make various improvements to our place here," he tells GA. "Just waiting around wouldn't do us any good." The first payment for November aid has arrived, and the money for December has also reached him. He, too, is still waiting in vain for the rest. So it has become a daily routine for Klein to call the tax accountant and ask how things are going. "At least the assurance is there that you'll get the aid." Given the high infection rates, he also doesn't see an alternative to the lockdown. "Opening up wouldn't do us any good either if no one came."
Richard Grunwald is also not in an optimistic frame of mind for the time being. "I think this will drag on for a while," says the owner of the Miebach restaurant on Marktplatz. He has received the partial payments for the last two months of 2020. Like the other restaurant proprietors, he is still waiting for the rest. He paints a bleak picture for the future of the city center: "Many of our fellow businesses and smaller stores could hardly survive before." But there is still hope for the spring, when customers can sit outside again.
Disappointment is great
While restaurateurs have been closed for some time and were able to apply for help for November, the situation is different for hair salons. They were still open until mid-December and could not apply for help until then. This prompted salon owner Stephan Sundermann to appeal to the public with a video he put out on social media a few days ago. He has owned a salon in Kessenich for 20 years now, employing twelve staff. In the video, he emphasizes that he is not a coronavirus denier, nor an AfD voter or a “Querdenker”. But he is extremely disappointed and saddened by the current measures taken by the German government.
The disappointment is great because the hair salons invested a lot in safety measures, Sundermann tells GA. "I put up plexiglass windows, and the customers sit four feet apart." As a result, he says he can only serve six customers at a time instead of ten. "That means even when we were open, I didn't make the sales I normally would have." The current situation feels very unfair. "The coronavirus numbers wouldn't have changed even if we had been open," Sundermann is certain.
What's happening now, he said, is that moonlighting is booming in the hairdressing industry. "We're getting calls from customers asking, 'Can you come over?' I can also make sure there are three or four people there (waiting for a haircut).” For him, he says, the question is what is the better thing to do. In his opinion, closed barbershops and hair salons push people to get their hair cut in private - possibly without a mask and social distancing. Sundermann wonders whether it would not be better to open the salons and adhere to coronavirus measures.
IHK urges swift payments
The Bonn/Rhein-Sieg Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) recently issued a press release urging that the aid be paid out quickly. As of January 5, there had been 14,475 applications for November aid in the Cologne administrative district, representing a funding amount of 333.5 million euros. However, only 67.4 million euros had been paid out by the beginning of January.
"The problem is that everything is still very slow," Michael Pieck, press spokesman for the Bonn/Rhein-Sieg Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told the GA on Wednesday. "No one is blaming the politicians, but many companies are now very unhappy." The aid is marked by good intentions, he said, but it is simply taking too long. "The expectations that have been raised should now be met.”
Responding to an inquiry, the district government responded on Wednesday that a total of 1,396 applications had been approved and financial aid paid out. Beyond the first partial payments, 5,385,899.36 euros have been transferred to those affected so far, said spokesman Dennis Heidel.
(Orig. text: Thomas Leurs / Translation: Carol Kloeppel)