Customer data, cigarette output, closing hours: the differences between what was expected and what was decided for the Horeca


The Horeca will be able to partially resume on 8 June. The industry knew overall what to expect.

A best practice guide was released last Saturday to allow the sector to prepare for its likely reopening on June 8. Several recommendations were included in the 24-page document, some of which were of particular concern to the sector, including coffee shops. Recriminations that have not failed to return to the ears of politicians. This is one of the reasons for the differences between the measures provided for by the guide last week and the final updated and released this morning, the day after the National Security Council launched Phase 3 of the de-conference. After leaving the NSC, the reader seems relieved though still worried.

What are these differences? We have listed them.

1. Leaving the bar, café or restaurant to smoke will finally be allowed

In last Saturday’s version of the vade-mecum, however, it was stated: “It is forbidden to go out to smoke”.  The new version does not mention this point. The subject was discussed in the NSC on Wednesday. Budget Minister David Clarinval highlighted this issue. Denis Ducarme, Minister of Independents, has also pushed internally to change this measure.

“Going out to smoke is a moment of conviviality. Asking smokers to sit in the restaurant for three hours without moving was complicated for coffee makers, especially,” a government source said. “THE VIRologists at GEES didn’t want to allow it at first, because they were concerned that it would lead to too much contact between clients. But we finally reached a compromise.”

2. Encoding a customer’s contact information will not be mandatory

Last week’s vade-mecum provided that each customer’s data must be recorded on arrival and “kept for 14 days to facilitate any subsequent contact search.” This request was to allow for better tracing.

The National Security Council finally took a different decision. Encoding will be recommended but more mandatory for several reasons.

First, keeping a customer register in the horeca “would be illegal,” as Denis Ducarme assured on Bel-RTL on Wednesday. This was confirmed by Prime Minister Sophie Wilmès in her press conference. Secondly, the sector and coffee shops in particular considered the measure too cumbersome. Indeed, collecting this data takes time and proves complicated, especially for coffee makers, often alone to manage their establishment. Claiming contact information for the consumption of a simple ice cream or beer could also have discouraged some. Finally, the proper functioning of the tracing will be greatly complicated by the opening of borders. How to precede when Belgian Walloons have been in contact with Italian, Spanish, Dutch nationals?

3. Closing time at 1 a.m. instead of midnight and even 11 p.m.

Last week’s best practice guide called for Horeca establishments to close at midnight. In a previous report by the GEES (experts in charge of the de-conference strategy), according to our information, the experts even recommended a closure at 11pm. This is considered untenable by the sector. Under the leadership of David Clarinval and Rudy Vervoort, the politician managed to get a 1am closure.  “Our French-speaking colleagues are more used to eating late. That’s why we delayed the closing time,” Economy Minister Nethalie Muylle (CD-V) said on Radio 1.

4. Nights shop close at 1am as well

Since restaurants, bars and cafes may close later, the NSC felt that night shop closing hours should also be delayed. Enough to allow customers to go to buy cigarettes, drinks, or snacks at the exit of the Horeca establishments.

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