Dutch bar and restaurant owners are taking the government to court in a bid to overturn a two-week closure amid rising coronavirus cases.
Caterers say the damage to their industry will be ‘incalculable’ and insist their venues are safe after PM Mark Rutte ordered the shutdown last week.
At least 30 businesses have launched a lawsuit to get the restrictions overturned, according to De Telegraaf.
The legal action follows similar measures in Germany, where bar curfews in Berlin were thrown out by a court last Friday, and in Spain, where regional leaders in Madrid have fought a lengthy battle over lockdowns with the Spanish government.
Seats and tables lie empty at a closed bar in Eindhoven over the weekend after the Dutch government ordered a two-week shutdown which has enraged caterers
Dutch infections have soared during the second wave, with more than 53,000 infections in the last week alone, leading to new restrictions
The Netherlands has seen 6,751 deaths, although like in most of Western Europe the fatalities are fewer than during the first wave
Dutch catering group KHN said last week that there was ‘disbelief, frustration and a lot of sadness’ after the closures were announced.
‘The catering industry has done its utmost in recent months to offer guests a safe environment and to prevent infections, and with results,’ they said.
The share of infections that could be traced back to the catering industry was only 1.8 per cent in the previous week, they said.
The Netherlands has reported more than 53,000 new infections in the last week, bringing the total to 228,234 cases with 6,751 deaths.
KHN chairman Rober Willemsen warned that ‘this closure is really the final blow for many catering entrepreneurs’.
‘The catering industry is being hit hard and I am therefore very concerned about the future catering landscape,’ Willemsen said.
German bar owners succeeded in a similar legal appeal last week after a Berlin court ruled that early closures were ‘disproportionate’.
It was ‘not apparent’ that closing the establishments early would help fight contagion, the court found in the case brought by 11 restaurant and bar owners.
Berlin authorities plan to appeal the ruling after German health minister Jens Spahn said there was ‘no doubt’ that big-city nightlife was helping to spread the virus.
In Spain, Madrid authorities went to court over travel restrictions that were imposed on the hard-hit region by the Spanish health ministry.
The regional government had an initial victory when a court found the restrictions were a wrongful ‘interference in citizens’ fundamental rights’.
But their success was short-lived as Spain’s government invoked a state of emergency to override the decision and impose the curbs anyway.
Bars and restaurants in Madrid also face early closures, which were not fought over in court, and Catalonia has closed them altogether to fend off the second wave.
A customer collects products at one of Amsterdam’s famous ‘coffee shops’ which sell cannabis. They are allowed to open for takeaways only under the new rules
Dutch authorities ordered the ‘partial lockdown’ last week which ordered the closure of all bars, cafes and restaurants.
The country’s famous ‘coffee shops’ that sell cannabis are also closed, but like cafes and restaurants they can still provide takeaway services.
Also among the new measures, team sports for over 18s are banned, while people are now limited to having three visitors at their home per day.
Prime minister Rutte also ordered face coverings to be worn in indoor spaces after long holding out against compulsory mask-wearing.
‘It hurts but it’s the only way, we have to be stricter,’ Rutte told a televised press conference last week.
‘If we do all of this, we can quickly return to a more normal life.’
Rutte had long championed what he called an ‘intelligent lockdown’ policy which was more relaxed than its European neighbours.
But the Netherlands has struggled to control the second wave spreading across Europe and now has one of the continent’s highest infection rates.
Rutte, who marked 10 years in power last Wednesday, has faced growing criticism over the government’s failure to rein in coronavirus cases.
Populist opposition parties have been using the Covid-19 crisis to push their case ahead of Dutch elections in March.