ATHENS (Reuters) – Greek bar and nightclub owners fear new restrictions allowing seated customers only will hit business during the vital summer season but said on Wednesday they accept the rules are needed to contain a surge in COVID-19 infections.
Authorities reimposed curbs on restaurants, nightclubs and bars this week, with effect from July 8. No standing customers will be allowed.
“It is a step back, it will surely influence tourism, but it is deemed necessary so we do not lose the rest of the summer. We will be patient,” said Ilias Babatsikos, 27, a beach bar manager at Athens’ coastal suburb of Alimos.
Health experts are concerned about a recent spike in infections and the more contagious Delta variant. On Tuesday health authorities reported 1,797 new confirmed infections, more than twice the level seen on Monday.
Babatsikos said it would be difficult to discipline people but hoped customers would respect the measures.
Authorities said on Tuesday many of the new cases involved young people and were linked to entertainment venues.
Premises found to be violating the new rules will face hefty fines and repeat offenders could lose their operating licences.
“I believe it was the wrong decision because at bars made for people to stand it is very difficult to have to tell someone they must sit down,” said Marios Markou, 37, who manages a bar in central Athens. “This is going to cause a lot of damage.”
About 38% of Greece’s eligible population is fully vaccinated and the government has offered incentives to entice more people to get the jab, including cash and free mobile data for youth, to bring that rate up to 70% by the autumn.
“It’s a very unfortunate development but we understand why it’s happening,” said businessman Kosmas Theodoridis, 48, a customer at a bar in Athens. “The essential thing is for everyone to get vaccinated.”
(Reporting by Stamos Prousalis and Deborah Kyvrikosaios, Writing by George Georgiopoulos, Editing by Catherine Evans)