Czech restaurants in trouble

Because of the resurgence of COVID-19 in the Czech Republic, the government imposed further restrictions on Monday, October 12th. Restaurants and bars in Prague must shut down their premises temporarily from Wednesday and can only serve their customers through take-out windows.

Silvia Siminiati, owner of the bar Kyklop in Letna, Holešovice, is facing the possibility of completely closing her establishment by the end of 2020. She, like many other locally operated bars in Holešovice, opens at 6 PM because the clientele does not regularly come during the day but in the later evening. She has lost 85% of her revenue while her rent and her utilities have increased within the past five months. Andy Fell, the proprietor of A Maze in Tchaiovna in Dejvice, Prague, is somewhat luckier than she. He is surviving because his business hours are during the day. But he lost 50% of his revenue when he had to cancel all of the music, art, and cultural events that his establishment was well-known for.

During the first lockdown in March, April, and May, businesses received one-third of their revenue from the government. Landlords were supposed to give 30% discounts to their tenants on their rent. Most businesses were encouraged to apply for loans from their banks. What they never knew was that if they had received that money, they would been disqualified from getting any further governmental support. This happened to Scott Kelly, owner of Cali Brothers Restaurant and Bar in Holešovice and co-owner of Burrito Loco, in various locations around Prague. He applied for his business loan at his bank during the first shut down, and applied for government assistance but was rejected.

Most had to scrape by during the first lockdown. Some of them were able to open their windows and had their food taken out like Fred Aurell, owner of Fraktal and Vegtral, did. Others did food delivery on their own or through food delivery websites such as Wolt and Dáme jídlo, which these websites charge them a 30% surcharge. Issac Starobin, owner of Dirty Dog Barbecue in Florenc, used his girlfriend’s car to make deliveries. He said, “Our revenue is down by about 30% from last year, but we have only two goals for this year. One is to keep our whole team employed and two is to keep our customers fed.”

Some of the restaurants and bars, especially those located in Prague 1, have already shut down for good because of the lack of tourists this year. Prague has had an approximate number of annual tourists up to 8 million. One beer distributor, Pivní nonstop, stated their deliveries for beer and alcohol have dropped significantly in the center while their deliveries to other precincts were reduced to 30%. They expect them to drop further to 50% with these current restrictions.

Czech president Zeman has stated in an interview with iROZHLAS.cz over their COVID III loan plan, “…if entrepreneurs are unable to take advantage of this loan and go bankrupt, the market will be cleared. Because their company, when it failed to use this help, is probably incompetent, or more precisely, incompetent entrepreneurs.” Critics oppose this opinion and say that it is rather lack of help from the state. According to them, if restaurant owners take another loan they will continue to rake up their debt.

Many people are saying that the nightlife in Prague is now dead. Some are saying it is a ploy to plant paranoia into the people from going out at all, fearing they would get the Corona. Others see it as unavoidable steps to slow down the rise of confirmed cases, which is significantly higher than it was in the spring. But the question that many business owners ask: ”How long can we survive without customers?”