Why are some restaurants in Switzerland re-opening despite the shutdown?

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Why are some restaurants in Switzerland re-opening despite the shutdown?
Some restaurants will break the rules and open on Monday. Photo by AFP

A number of restaurant owners in Switzerland are resuming their activities on Monday, January 11th, in violation of current coronavirus restrictions.


Fed up with having to close their doors on December 22nd and keep them shuttered until the end of February, dozens of restaurant and bar owners across Switzerland, along with other business proprietors, are vowing to resume their activities on Monday.

They say they are defying the federal restrictions in order to survive.

“I have to do something, otherwise my family will soon have nothing more to eat," a café owner from Basel told 20 Minuten. 

“I am the sole breadwinner and have to support a family of six”, she added.

Another restauranteur, Sascha Rettenmund, owner of Gentil’s Bar in Selznach, canton Solothurn, also said he would re-open his business because “soon I won't have anything to eat".

READ MORE: UPDATE: Switzerland to close all restaurants amid new move to stem Covid-19 surge 

These and others who are resuming their activities on Monday are part of #wirmachenauf movement, which started in Germany. In English it means “we open up”.

“We have implemented all the measures that were imposed on us and for many months we were ready to endure a serious drop in sales out of solidarity and to protect our fellow human beings”, the Swiss restauranteurs say on the site. 

Those who defy the federal ban and open on Monday risk hefty fines.


Legal expert Philipp Vonrüti said tradespeople who open their shops could be slapped with fines of up to 10,000 francs.

“This is the maximum amount currently set for breaking the Covid ordinance", he said.

Prison sentence of up to five years could also be given "if someone spreads a dangerous communicable disease”, he added.

However, possible sanctions are not dissuading those already committed to opening on Monday.

“I have nothing more to lose”, the Basel café owner said, adding that she would “take legal action against any fines”.

The Federal Council has earmarked 2.5 billion francs to help businesses most affected by closings. However, often no money is paid out because the examination of the applications is a slow process.

Industry federation GastroSuisse warned on Sunday that without significant financial support, around half of businesses in the restauration and hospitality sector could go belly-up by the end of March. 

The group polled around 4,000 restaurant and hotel owners, and determined that 98 percent of them already are in urgent need of financial support.

"The very existence of many of them is threatened," GastroSuisse president Casimir Platzer said.

READ MORE: Half of Swiss hotels, restaurants risk bankruptcy: employer group 




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