Hospitality industry stages protest over COVID-19 restrictions

Artur Reszko/PAP

Hundreds of people representing the hospitality industry, including restaurants owners, waiters and waitresses, protested on Saturday in Bialystok, northeastern Poland, against restrictions the government had implemented amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

From October 24, restaurant activity has been limited for two weeks to serving only takeaway food and drinks.

One of the organisers of the demonstration said that people were protesting because "someone made irresponsible decisions" by closing cafes and restaurants. He appealed to the government to let the catering industry, consisting not only of owners, but also employees, suppliers and other related industries, live and work.

He also presented the main demands of protesters, including exemption from social security contributions, government subsidies to employees' salaries (up to 90 percent of the minimum wage), assistance in paying fixed monthly fees to companies in the industry and reducing the VAT rate to 5 pct for hospitality services.

They also demand a plan for further action, which would be consulted with the representatives of the industry, as well as providing announcements in advance. Restaurant owners said their premises are adapted to all sanitary and epidemiological restrictions and customers also complied with them. They also said they did not understand why they were being deprived of their ability to work, whereas serving only takeaway food could not give them a chance to survive.

Several dozen motorcyclists and taxi drivers also joined the protesters.