Restrictions on restaurants and bars easing again next week

From Monday businesses will be allowed to open for longer hours, offer buffet services, and increase their occupancy to 75%.

File picture of restaurant buffet line / Credit: iStock

From next Monday restaurants, cafes and bars will be able to serve more customers, for longer, than they are currently able to as the government further relaxes coronavirus restrictions.

Ministers Krista Kiuru (SDP) and Hanna Kosonen (Centre) made the announcement alongside experts on Wednesday to lay out the new arrangements that come into place.

Bars, cafes and restaurants were forced to close, or switch to take-away food service only, as the coronavirus epidemic worsened at the start of March. Although they were allowed to open again on 1st June with a number of restrictions, particularly on restaurant occupancy rates, authorities said they would look into the situation again before Midsummer to see if it had any negative effect on virus numbers.

From 22nd June businesses can be open from 04:00 and close at 02:00 at the latest. Alcohol sales can start at 09:00 and stop at 01:00; and self-service buffets will be permitted once again.

Bars, restaurants and cafes will be allowed to have 75% occupancy inside but all businesses must make sure there is no congestion inside their premises, and all customers must have their own seats.

Strict levels of hygiene must also be kept up. The government says most of the remaining restrictions on bars and restaurants will be lifted by 13th July but even then each customer must have their own seat.

“It is clear that there may be more cases of the disease. That is entirely possible. If the disease situation worsens, unfortunately we have a duty to review these restrictions” said  Kosonen.

Reaction from the industry

The Finnish Hospitality Association MaRa has responded positively to the newly eased restrictions, something individual business owners had been calling for when it was clear there hadn’t been a spike in coronavirus numbers since they re-opened on 1st June.

“I thank the government for lifting the restrictions on restaurants. Allowing buffet tables is a great relief, especially for lunch restaurants, motorway service stations and hotels in organizing their breakfast” says Timo Lappi, CEO of MaRa.

“Allowing drinks until 1:00 and closing restaurants at 2:00 also allows nightclubs to open. Raising the maximum number of customer seats to 75% will allow more and more restaurants to be opened. Removing and easing the restrictions will also improve the ability of food restaurants to offer customers services” he adds.

MaRa is emphasising that individual businesses should vigilant with their hygiene standards and make sure customers observe social distancing. The organisation says that if all restrictions are lifted in the middle of July then it will allow restaurant operations to become profitable again.

Easing restrictions on events and travel 

The Government also decided this week that indoor and outdoor events for more than 500 people will be allowed again.

However there are still supposed to be safe social distancing between event attendees which could prove challenging for organisers. The decision comes too late for scores of festivals, concerts and other summer happenings which were already canceled in advance as the coronavirus epidemic spread during spring.

Minister says that a final “decomissioning measure” to waive all restrictions on indoor and outdoor events will be made from 1st October as long as there is no second wave in Covid-19 infection.

Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto has indicated that from next Tuesday a recommendation to avoid foreign travel is likely to be dropped. Other traditional holiday hot spots like Spain and Greece have started to open up for tourists and encourage EU visitors to start returning for their summer holidays.