The trade association representing the European spirits sector, spiritsEUROPE, has urged EU Member States to adopt “evidence-based, proportionate and time-bound policies” in fighting the disease “… and for the necessary supports to be made available to protect those who depend on our sector, both directly and indirectly”.
spiritsEUROPE stated, “We understand that governments across Europe have had to make extremely difficult decisions and choices that impact on our daily lives. We’re greatly concerned, however, that many restaurants, cafes and bars – who invested heavily to do everything they could to get through the first wave – might not survive the second. Their reinvention during Covid (with Social Distancing, reduction of capacity, pivots to delivery, takeaway, outdoor service, etc) while innovative, was only ever to be temporary.
“Many of these businesses are now on the brink of permanent closure; not only would this be an economic disaster, but a social and cultural one too. Our hospitality sector supports millions of jobs and attracts millions of visitors to Europe each year. It cannot be allowed to collapse.”
Solutions for solvency
spiritsEUROPE has urged policymakers to do whatever they can to ensure that, where outlets can safely operate, they’re supported in doing so.
“Where they cannot, restrictions should be as limited as possible (to give businesses a fighting chance of survival) and as systematic and consistent as possible (to allow for appropriate planning),” it states.
In particular it calls on governments to reconsider:
- curfews, which have generally not been requested by public health advocates and which are not proven to limit circulation of the virus. If an outlet can safely operate, it can safely operate after 9pm
- stringent restrictions on the sale and availability of alcohol which led to stock-piling, overcrowding and panic-buying during the first wave
- reduced opening hours of supermarkets and off-licences. Evidence from cities across Europe has shown that the introduction of reduced business hours can result in overcrowding and “rushes” on retail and public transport
- rules which discriminate against bars in favour of restaurants. If small restaurants can operate safely so can small bars if they too take the same precautions as outlets serving food
- arbitrary closures of the hospitality sector. There’s no evidence to suggest that the majority of cases are transmitted in a hospitality setting, especially where establishments have often invested in sanitation and implement Social Distancing. The targeting of bars and restaurants is disproportionate and may have a limited impact on the incidence of transmission.
Beyond this, the hospitality sector must be given as much direct support as possible, states spiritsEUROPE, “Furlough schemes for employees are the top priority but we are now at a stage where more comprehensive support is required.”
spiritsEUROPE represents one of Europe’s most valuable agri-food export sectors and with it, the interests of 31 associations of spirits producers as well as 10 leading multinational companies.