Bar and restaurant owners demonstrated in the capital this weekend, demanding more flexible Covid-19 restrictions on trade in the face of the economic crisis caused by the global pandemic.
“The gastronomic business owner is billing 15 or 20 percent [compared to] normal, with closings at night and without the flow of weekends,” Yamila Guzmán, 30, said as she attended a rally in Plaza Serrano, Palermo's famed food and drink hotspot.
Almost 20,000 gastronomic and hotel companies have closed their doors since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, with a loss of 175,000 jobs, according to the industry’s business chamber, FEHGRA (La Federación Empresaria Hotelera Gastronómica de la República Argentina).
“The situation is really very serious due to the bankruptcies. [Bars and restaurants] could not resist the restrictions that the pandemic brought,” said Alejandro Larumbe, 54, the head of the Quilmes business chamber for hotels and gastromic businesses.
To date, Argentina has registered more than 81,000 deaths and almost four million infections from Covid-19. Recent weeks have seen daily peaks of close to 40,000 infections and 600 deaths.
If the restrictions "last all winter, five or six thousand more stores will close, and there will be another twenty or thirty thousand people on the street [without work]," said Eduardo Maurice, 62, a local bar-owner.
Last weekend, strict protocols in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area (AMBA) allowed only the sale of takeaway or home-delivered products. On weekdays, customers can be served at terrace tables until 7pm.
Bar and restaurant owners are requesting permission to open with a maximum of 30 percent occupancy in the premises, and until midnight.
Tourism, gastronomy and hotels are the business sectors “hardest hit” by the pandemic, says FEHGRA, although the artistic field (cinema, theatre, dance, music, recitals, etc.) is considered to be in a worse situation by some analysts.
FEHGRA said it recognises the importance of government aid packages for the sector, which have come in the form of subsidies, credits and tax exemptions, but the lobby group says that's not enough. “The situation is extremely serious and of historical magnitude," said the group in a statement.