As coronavirus surges, Europeans ask: 'where can I get a drink?'

FILE PHOTO: People walk past a pub after Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on October 7 new circuit breaker restrictions to counter the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain October 7, 2020. REUTERS/Russell Cheyne/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - A new surge in coronavirus cases means more bars and restaurants across Europe are facing curfews or closures, leaving many of their customers to ask: where can you get a drink around here?

Rapidly changing regulations and different rules in different parts of the same country make it hard for drinkers to get their heads around what is allowed and what could get them into trouble.

For some there is also a sense that the rules unfairly penalise bars while other activities are given a freer ride.

"This is total nonsense. So today you have a football game with I believe 7,000 people in a stadium ... People will jostle each other when walking through the revolving doors, while bars cannot open," said Raphael Raya, 59, who works in Brussels.

"Tell me why the bars are closed and not the restaurants?" he told Reuters TV. "I'm wondering, in whose interest is it to open certain things and not others?"

In parts of Brussels bordering Flanders, the width of a road can make all the difference. In Vilvoorde, the Café Noisette in Brussels is closed, for example, but Pub 't Stopsel in Flanders across the street is open, broadcaster RTBF reported.

In the leafy Brussels suburb of Woluwe, one brasserie said it would offer half-price "planches à partager" (platters to share) so people could still drink beer and wine by eating light snacks or olives, sardines, anchovies and "bruschetta maison".

They will also keep tables on the pavement this winter for drinkers who don't want to be inside. "I've got blankets for you if you get cold," said the barman at the Bistro Woluwe.

In Madrid, famous for late-night carousing, bars and restaurants must now close at 10 p.m., compared with pre-COVID closing times of 3 a.m., but people may find other ways of getting together for a drink.

"I go out to fewer bars and restaurants now, but have to admit I meet up more at friends' places," said 24-year-old postgraduate student Laura Knirsch.

"So if the aim is to avoid gatherings between lots of people, the measures aren't very useful, although I consider them important."


Berlin has announced a curfew for restaurants and bars from 11 p.m. until 6 a.m. until the end of October, forcing drinkers to make new choices.

Brian Trauth, 41, an American who founded and runs the Braeugier microbrewery and bar in Berlin's trendy Prenzlauer Berg neighbourhood, says early closing will hurt his business.

"It remains to be seen whether people shift their drinking habits to drinking at home, in which case we'll try to think about pushing takeaway or growlers (jugs) or bottles, or if it shifts to people maybe drinking earlier," he said.

"Or if everybody goes English-style, knows the pub closes early and just goes crazy ... It's going to be a challenge."

One of the criticisms of early 10 p.m. closing for pubs in England is that it forces people out onto the streets in no shape to observe social distancing.

Scotland's government has gone further, including ordering pubs in Glasgow and Edinburgh to close for 16 days, while more restrictions are being considered for Northern England, meaning those looking for an open bar may have to head south.

In Austria, the apres-ski party's pretty much over as the winter season approaches, with skiers told they must sit at tables in bars rather than dance on them.

"There will be no apres-ski as we know it from earlier times," says tourism minister Elisabeth Koestinger.

For some in search of a convivial drink as their options narrow, laughter is one answer.

When Brussels announced that bars and cafes – but not restaurants - would close for a month, a spoof Twitter account followed by thousands quipped: "Off to my favourite Brussels 'restaurant' tonight to order a large coq au vin, without the coq."

(Reporting by Clara-Laeila Laudette, John Chalmers, Christian Levaux, Clement Rossignol, Robin Emmott, Francois Murphy and Maria Sheahan; Writing by Giles Elgood; Editing by Mike Collett-White)

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