Business Owners Want Croatian Cafes, Restaurants Open from February 1st

Lauren Simmonds

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As Poslovni Dnevnik writes, there is still a lot of uncertainty as to whether catering and hospitality facilities, gyms and sports clubs will start opening up and operating again on February the 1st, but Hrvoje Bujas, president of the Voice of Entrepreneurs association, is calling for just such a scenario, writes Slobodna Dalmacija.

The existing measures that put the keys in the locks for a good part of business owners, particularly those who own Croatian cafes and restaurants, have been extended until January the 31st. There is speculation on the sidelines that this situation could remain in force until March the 1st, possibly even dragging out until April. This could happen primarily to improve the epidemiological situation across the country in order to welcome 2021’s tourist season on which many rely.

Several Split-based catering and hospitality business owners have confirmed to us that, according to their plans and information, they don’t believe that they will start working for at least another thirty to fifty days.

It is true that March and April, during these unpredictable circumstances, don’t make sense to discuss excessively, but Croatian cafe and restaurant owners, among others whose facilities are closed, would still like to know at least the outline plans of the National Civil Protection Headquarters and the Government. Their very survival depends on it.

”What we propose, that is, what we demand from the Government, ie the Headquarters, is that if such positive trends continue, ie with the reduction of the number of infected, hospitalised and dead people, is to start gradually opening up catering facilities, gyms, fitness centres and the like from the first day of February. Of course, this would go hand in hand with respecting all the prescribed epidemiological measures on maintaining social distancing and the necessary disinfection procedures,’’ Bujas confirmed.

He says that their association has 15 thousand members, of which 35 percent are those who have jobs in the hospitality industry, so at the moment they are doing little and nothing.

‘’It’s clear to us that the next two weeks are crucial again. However, as vaccination has started, and a large number of people have already overcome the coronavirus, Croatian cafe and restaurant owners, as well as other business owners, are asking the ruling party to give them some opportunities to do business again. It’s also clear to us that not everything will go well with the opening in the business plan, in fact. It takes some time to get work started, and this is especially important when it comes to preparation for the tourist season. It takes time for business to turn over, so doing business in February is very important to us.

‘’There have already been dismissals, and there will certainly be more of them, we currently have 160 thousand unemployed people, we hope that number will not exceed 200 thousand. But it seems to us that nothing can be ruled out. The situation is really difficult, help is arriving late, only one quarter of those who applied and were accepted actually received grants for November, and only a few of our members got theirs for the month of December.

We also believe that now is the time for a 13 percent VAT reduction for everyone in the tourism sector, which should, for example, include travel agencies that have recorded a drop in traffic of as much as 80 percent, many are closed, and those trying to survive are doing very poorly’’ Bujas warned.

‘’We also touched on the double standards when it comes to Croatian business owners helping in Banovina, where they’ve been tirelessly cooking and giving out meals for the earthquake victims for days now. There are currently about 150 chefs and workers of other catering profiles in the quake-affected area, who are engaged in delivering thousands of hot meals a day. About a hundred of them are also engaged in restaurants, from where up to 5,000 meals are delivered to the victims every day.

‘’They’re doing all this for free, with their own money, their own employees, their own savings and they’re not complaining. But the key word is that they’re working. Unfortunately, the same kind of work in controlled conditions is not allowed for these people,’’ concluded Hrvoje Bujas.

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