New rules for restaurants, nightclubs and bars “a step in the right direction”

File picture of craft beer / Credit: iStock

New powers that make it easier to differentiate between restaurants, bars and nightclubs has been cautiously welcomed as “a step in the right direction” by the Finnish Hospitality Association MaRa.

On Tuesday the Parliamentary Committee for Social Affairs and Health decided to let regional authorities decide to put different restrictions in place to slow the spread of coronavirus depending on, basically, how much alcohol is sold in different types of business.

Previously restrictions on occupancy and opening times – or even industry-wide closures – had applied to all establishments, but campaigners have argued this is far too narrow a definition, and say there’s clearly a wide difference between a lunch restaurant, a cafe, and a nightclub when it comes the risk of spreading coronavirus.

In the future any business which has a focus on food will be allowed 75% occupancy, while bars and nightclubs will be limited to 50% occupancy. The decision is based on the different rates coronavirus spreads in different environments – especially where alcohol is involved.

“We thank the Committee […] for taking better account of the constitutional rights of entrepreneurs and employees in the regulation of restaurant restrictions” says Timo Lappi MaRa’s CEO, in a statement.

File picture of restaurant buffet line / Credit: iStock

Critics in the industry say the way the government’s gone about mandating a blanket ban up until now on all types of hospitality venue leaves no room to operate even for businesses that don’t mind restrictions at the busiest times – the times when coronavirus could more easily spread – but want to be open during quieter hours when they might stand a chance of making some money.

Although MaRa welcomes the changing rules, the organisation still wants to see more flexibility and self-regulation – for example a restaurant that serves alcohol could stop selling booze at 23:00, and yet continue to serve only food for longer than that if there are customers.

Timo Lappi says there could also be other exemptions from any blanked closure measures in future.

“It is important that the opening hours of restaurants at transport stations are not restricted. It would have been equally important to exempt restaurants and hotel breakfast restaurants at airports from restrictions” he adds.

The new rules should be ready to come into use during November.

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