Parliament approves new rules to open restaurants, cafes and bars

Businesses can open again on Monday but with limits to the number of customers they're allowed seated inside the premises at any one time.

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

Parliament and the President approved new temporary amendments to the Communicable Diseases Act on Friday, which makes it possible for restaurants, bars and cafes to open again for business on 1st June.

Businesses will be able to serve alcohol until 22:00 and food until 23:00 and as a coronavirus precaution they are only allowed to take in 50% occupancy, with everyone seated – no standing at the bar.

The legislation has taken longer than anticipated to get through the parliamentary process because the original draft from the Government was halted by the Constitutional Affairs Committee which demanded amendments.

The new rules for opening come the same week that Parliament approved a €170 million compensation package for the industry. The money covers up to 15% of lost income in April and May, and also provides money to re-employ staff who were laid off.

However industry groups say neither of the new laws go far enough to help business owners.

The Finnish Hospitality Association MaRa says that restaurants, cafes and bars need an upper limit of 75% occupancy, with social distancing and other safety precautions, before it becomes financially viable for many businesses to open again.

“Fifty percent capacity is not enough. You still have all the costs of running a business, but you only get 50% of your income. It will make it very difficult to open and many restaurants will have to think about whether it is better to stay closed” says Timo Lappi, CEO of MaRa.

Industry groups are also calling for more money to be made available to cover lost revenues from the time in April and May when businesses were completely closed – or earning very little from take-away orders.