New rules for restaurants, cafes and bars introduced from 1st June

The government is putting a time limit on food and alcohol sales, and critics say they should be more flexible and pay compensation for lost revenues.

Customers eat lunch at a cafe in Esplanadi, Helsinki, February 2019 / Credit: iStock

Ministers have announced a new set of rules for restaurants, cafes and bars when they open on 1st June after an extended coronavirus lockdown.

Speaking in Helsinki, Minister of Family and Basic Services Krista Kiuru (SDP) outlined the plan that allows restaurants to open no earlier than 06:00 and close by 23:00

However, drinks sales have to stop an hour before the premises close.

“Drinking can start at 09:00 and the sale of alcohol must stop no later than 22:00” says Kiuru.

Officials say the reason for this one hour difference between the end of alcohol sales and the closing of restaurants, is to try and avoid crowds of people or queues in restaurants at closing time.

The new restrictions mean that in practice, nightclubs cannot open yet.

Limits to the number of customers inside

From 1st June there will also be new limits on the number of customers inside a restaurant, cafe or bar at any one time – restricted to 50% of the normal seats.

“Restrictions are made so that customers can keep a safe distance.”

All restaurant customers must have their own seats, but they can’t yet help themselves to food or drinks for example from a buffet.

There are no restrictions on the number of people who can sit outside on a terrace, but social distancing remains here too. Businesses must draw up their own plan for how this is all going to work in practice, and make that plan available to safety-conscious customers if they ask.

Reaction to the new rules

The Finnish Hospitality Association MaRa thinks that restricting premises to 50% occupancy is too low and will stop businesses hiring their staff back again. The organisation is proposing the number of customer seats should be increased to 75%.

“The government’s decision to cut 50% of customer seats means that it is very difficult to make operations profitable. Even in theory, a restaurant can only get 50 percent of its revenue. However, many expenses, such as rents and energy costs, still have to be paid” says Timo Lappi, MaRa’s CEO.

“When the operating profit margin of the restaurant sector is only 1%–4% of turnover in normal economic times, profitable operations are practically impossible when the restrictions are in force” Lappi adds.

MaRa is also calling for the state to compensate business owners for as long as there are official restrictions on the work of bars, restaurants and cafes – and therefore restrictions on their earnings.