Businesses in many parts of Europe are asking for more government assistance as new pandemic restrictions and heightened anxiety over the highly contagious variant of Omicron have crushed what would normally be a profitable time of year.
Nowhere is this worse than in the Netherlands, where the Dutch government instituted a lockdown over the weekend, closing most shops, bars, restaurants, gyms, outdoor sports, cultural venues and schools until January.
Some business owners fear they will never reopen.
“It’s something I ask myself every day,” said Omar Waseq, owner of a cheese bar and cinema café in central Utrecht. “I am not 100% sure. “
Mr Waseq estimated that he loses around $ 50,000 each month while his cheese bar, Kaasbar Utrecht, is closed, and $ 100,000 at the cafe. Plans to rebuild a nightclub he owns that burned down in January have been put on hold.
He had to lay off most of his 80 employees and is now trying to make money selling mulled wine on the streets and door-to-door packages of cheese.
Many Dutch business owners seek help from the government. Calls to the country’s business registry for help surpassed 400 on Monday, seven times the number recorded the previous Monday.
In Britain, the government responded on Tuesday, announcing £ 1 billion, or about $ 1.3 billion, in aid to the hotel industry, including one-time grants of £ 6,000 and allowance discounts. illness of employees.
Hopes for further help come as a new wave of anxiety over the coronavirus and the economy sweeps through the region.
In Germany, companies are pushing the government to lift new requirements for customers to show proof of recent vaccination or recovery which they say has scared customers into what is supposed to be their peak period. busiest – and most lucrative – of the year.
The Spanish government has scheduled an emergency meeting with regional leaders on Wednesday to discuss whether to adopt new restrictions, and the Italian government is meeting on Thursday.
“We are now in a different phase where the foreclosure will potentially be more costly,” said Claus Vistesen, chief eurozone economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics. “Until now, we were used to blockages followed by government support. I think it will also be the case, but the support will be more conditional, less comprehensive than before.
In the Netherlands, Mr Waseq said because he opened his businesses after the start of the pandemic and had no 2019 sales to use as a benchmark comparison, he was not eligible government assistance.
Ron Sinnige, spokesperson for the country’s national business registry, Kamer van Koophandel, said the agency was inundated with calls from owners this week asking for financial help, advice or the winding up of their operations. Some were looking for advice on how to qualify as an essential business – could a clothing store sell candy and soda, could a beauty salon offer post-surgical massages, or list Botox injections as a medical procedure? .
The questions were a sign of people’s creativity and desperation, Sinnige said. “Unlike previous blockages, people are really at the end of their financial and emotional flexibility,” he said.
France has banned tourists from Britain and canceled a menu of year-end celebrations. However, tighter restrictions on business seem unlikely at this time, especially with a presidential runoff set for April.
Ireland has imposed an early 8pm curfew on restaurants and bars that began on Monday, while also limiting attendance at events.
In Denmark, restaurants and bars must stop serving alcohol after 10 p.m., while a list of venues and event spaces including theaters, museums, zoos, concert halls and Tivoli, the Copenhagen’s iconic amusement park, has been closed.
Switzerland’s restrictions that ban unvaccinated people from going to restaurants, gyms and museums are expected to last until January 24.
In Germany, the check-in process at stores, which requires stopping everyone at the door and asking to see their vaccination certificate and ID, was cumbersome and took shoppers away, said the German trade association.
Retailers polled by the group reported a 37% drop in sales from Christmas 2019, with an even larger drop in shoppers, threatening the future of many stores, especially smaller stores.
“After months of closures, the restrictions are once again bringing many retailers to the brink of their existence,” said Stefan Genth, head of the Trade Association.
A northern Lower Saxony state court last week rejected vaccine testing restrictions, after department store chain Woolworth challenged them on the grounds that they were not enforced fairly and that ‘requiring buyers to wear masks offered sufficient protection against the spread of the coronavirus. Thursday’s decision raised hopes that other states would follow suit, giving last-minute shoppers a final push.
“Last weekend was better, but overall the shopping season has been more than depressing,” said Mark Alexander Krack, head of the Lower Saxony Trade Association. “Restaurants, theaters and cinemas all still have restrictions, which means fewer people are shopping in the city.”