The Prime Minister acknowledges that this is not the time to open bars and nightclubs, and that it may even be the case that they will not reopen all summer “if necessary”. In an interview with TSF on Monday, António Costa admitted that there are still no dates planned for the reopening of this type of establishment. A warning that has added to the sector’s concern.
“It is not on our calendar yet. We have to make [the reopening] in a gradual way and starting with the sectors of activity where it’s easier to regulate and establish rules for distancing. Now, activities that, by their very nature, live not from distance but, on the contrary, from proximity and interaction, it is clear that they will be in the last place of those that can reopen”, the Prime Minister began by saying.
Asked if bars and nightclubs might not open this summer, Costa answered: “If necessary. If not, even better. If it is, it will have to be… We can’t now call into question what we’ve achieved with enormous difficulty from people. There are people who have not left their home for two months. Only today will families be able to visit their relatives in nursing homes again. Only today will parents be able to put their children in day care. And they do it with a very divided heart, not knowing if it is a risk for the child,” he said. And he insisted: “We cannot question what we have achieved.” And he remembered one criterion: “Maximum containment, minimum disturbance.”
The Association of Bars in the Historic Area of Porto (ABZHP) has already reacted to the declarations. António Fonseca, president of ABZHP, confessed to PÚBLICO that the declarations of the Prime Minister “aggravate the concern” of the sector. “If [the establishments] don’t open this year, what will be done to the people?”
Aware that the Government’s positions may “evolve from one day to the next”, António Fonseca has once again reinforced that the owners of nightclubs want “to know that they are heard”, both by the executive and by the Directorate-General of Health (DGS), even more so when the possibility is on the table that there will be no reopening during the summer.
ABZHP is aware of the circumstances and ensures that the priority is to open spaces “safely” and therefore wants to talk to “seek solutions” with the Government and DGS on possible support and on the preparation of the sector for health and safety measures that could be taken. Due to more than just about this Monday’s statements, António Fonseca admits that businessmen are concerned that there is no dialogue”, despite several attempts already made.
On Thursday the sector sent a letter to the government with a set of measures that could save bars and nightclubs. The entrepreneurs are asking for exemption from all payments to Social Security and Finance (with the exception of VAT), exemption from the Single Social Tax for the years 2020 and 2021 and support for “non-repayable funds from the sum corresponding to the salaries of the permanent jobs for a minimum period of nine months, provided that the jobs at the date of closure are maintained”, among other measures.
The Associação de Discotecas do Sul e Algarve (ADSA) does not believe that the scenario of bars and nightclubs being closed during the summer “may have any viability”, admitting it only if the Government assumes “the expenses and losses” associated with such a decision.
“If all economic activity is gradually opening up, we’re not prodigal children – I think the bars and nightclubs will have to operate as well,” the ADSA president told PÚBLICO. Liberto Mealha hopes that, at least during the month of June, there will be a “green light” for the sector, so that the establishments can try to “make some profit from the summer”, always with full respect for the measures that may be required.
ADSA recognizes that nightclubs were “prepared to open later,” but not to be closed during what are ultimately “the strongest months.”It’s a sector that can’t be marginalized.”
About gyms, Costa says the government is “in dialogue with the association [representative of the sector], to see how hygiene criteria are ensured”. “Standards have to be found” to avoid crowding and ensure “sanitization,” he said, pointing out that the gyms are places where contamination is “easier”.