French bars, restaurants set to stay closed beyond 20 January
The French Prime Minister is expected to confirm that bars, cafés and restaurants will not be allowed to reopen on 20 January, as had been hoped, due to rising Covid-19 infections. Jean Castex is to deliver his government's latest assessment of the situation in a press conference on Thursday.
Monday's government meeting decided that it would be unwise to reopen bars and restaurants on 20 January.
No official decision has yet been announced, apparently because participants in Monday's meeting expressed fears about the negative impact of such an announcement, given the current level of criticism of the authorities for the slow pace of the French vaccination programme.
The task of breaking the bad news to the owners and clients of French eateries, already into their third month of closure, will now fall to the prime minister.
The trade unions representing the restaurant sector have been called to a meeting at the French Finance Ministry on Tuesday.
Several members of the profession have said they will have to accept defeat and close permanently if they are not allowed to reopen later this month.
Fixed charges forcing financial collapse
Interviewed by daily paper Le Parisien, Romain Rozier, who has been running a salad bar in a busy part of central Paris since 2016, says the news of the probable extension of restaurant closures has simply stunned a profession already at the end of its resources.
Rozier's own difficulties date from the first period of lockdown in the French capital, in March 2020, with the massive increase in the number of those working from home leading to the collapse of his highly lucrative lunchtime take-away business.
Even after putting five of his six employees on protective redundancy notice and working flat out to deal with click and collect orders, Romain Rozier has seen his turnover slashed to just 20% of pre-pandemic figures. And the €10,000 he receives in government assistance every month is not much help.
"My problem is the fixed charges," he explains, adding that rent, electricity, insurance, business expenses and paying the part of the wage bill not covered by the government leaves him facing an ever-growing debt.
Plus now he has to finance a loan taken out to get him through the first lockdown in March.
Rozier reckons he can survive for another month, maybe two.
After that, he says, he'll have to close definitively.
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