How some Swiss restaurants are getting around the Covid certificate requirement

The extension of the certificate went into effect in Switzerland his week, but some restaurant owners have already found ways to get round the new rule without breaking the law.

How some Swiss restaurants are getting around the Covid certificate requirement
Indoor / outdoor dining for clients without Covid certificate. Photo by Hostellerie du Château, Rolle / Facebook

Starting on September 13th, the Covid certificate is compulsory to access almost all indoor areas in Switzerland, including restaurants and bars.

This means that only people who are vaccinated, recovered from coronavirus or tested negative are allowed into indoor areas of restaurants and bars, and staff must check each customer’s certificate.

READ MORE: TODAY: Switzerland extends Covid certificate for entry to restaurants and bars

But while most restaurant owners have grudgingly accepted the new rule, some have found ways to circumvent the requirement in all legality.

In certain cases, they have taken drastic steps of closing the indoor spaces of restaurants and serving food only outdoors, where Covid certificates are not required.

This is the case at Au Bec Gourmand in Sierre, canton Valais. Its owner, Enzo Astore, decided to serve meals only on the terrace.

 “It would be unfair to segregate my clients, accept some and refuse others. It is not part of my values. I will treat everyone in the same way”, he said in an interview with Watson news site.

“I cannot bear to cause rifts among my clientele. A public establishment must remain public”, he added.

In case of rain or cold weather, “I’ll do take-away”, Astore said.

The owners of Seehuis restaurant in Giswil, Obwalden made a similar decision, planning to serve meals only on its terrace.

“It doesn’t matter whether you are vaccinated, recovered, tested, with or without a certificate. All are welcome on our cozy terrace. We are against discrimination!”, the restaurant posted on its website and social media.

The Hostellerie du Château, a restaurant located in Rolle, canton Vaud, also found an innovative way to accept all clients.

It is offering its outdoor “cabins” — which resemble cable cars that transport skiers to and from the slopes — to customers without the Covid certificate.

Each cabin accommodates only one table, ensuring only a limited number of diners.

“These cabins were to be used from next winter, but I don’t want to refuse a client because they are not vaccinated. We therefore decided to use these cabins now, ” said Nicoline Anjema Robin, the restaurant’s owner.

But perhaps the most drastic step was taken by the Braui restaurant in Berneck, St.Gallen, which closed its doors permanently in response to new measures,

“The philosophy of being able to serve all guests equally can no longer be practiced with the certificate requirement”, said owner Mike Egger.

READ MORE: ‘Flagrant inequality of treatment’: How Switzerland reacted to Covid certificate extension

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Reader question: Which Swiss cantons will keep the Covid certificate in place?

Several Swiss cantons have expressed a desire to keep the Covid certificate in place. What does that mean for the relaxation of Covid measures?

Reader question: Which Swiss cantons will keep the Covid certificate in place?

On Wednesday February 16th, Switzerland announced an imminent relaxation of almost all Covid measures. 

The decision was made after a two-week consultation with Switzerland’s cantons to decide the way forward out of the pandemic. 

The government announced that almost all Covid measures are being relaxed from Thursday, February 17th.

Covid certificates – which show someone has been vaccinated, recovered or in some cases has tested negative – will no longer be required in restaurants, cinemas or at events.

Masks will no longer be required in shops, supermarkets and the workplace, while they will continue to be required in public transport for the meantime. 

More information about the relaxed measures can be found at the following link. 

UPDATE: Switzerland to scrap Covid certificate and most mask rules

What does this mean at a cantonal level? 

While the federal government no longer requires Covid certificates, they can however be required by the cantons, under the new framework.

Swiss media has previously reported that several cantons want to keep the certificate in place.

READ MORE: Swiss cantons divided on ending Covid measures

During the consultation period, several cantons expressed reservations about completely removing the certificate requirement. 

The small, centralised and predominantly German-speaking cantons of central Switzerland — Zug, Schwyz, Uri, Nidwalden, Obwalden and Glarus —  were in the greatest hurry to return to pre-Covid rules.

These cantons argued that a gradual lifting would be too complicated and difficult for the population to understand.

The southwestern canton of Valais preferred this approach as well, but only “as long as the number of cases and hospitalisations continue to decrease by mid-February”. Otherwise, the lifting of the measures should be done in stages.

However, Geneva, Basel-City, Neuchâtel and Jura said it was too early to lift remaining measures.

“It is too risky at the moment, given the still high load in hospitals”, according to Basel-City, which added that “the effects of the first relaxations, such as teleworking and quarantines, are also not yet known”.

Will some cantons still require a Covid certificate?

Berset clarified on Wednesday that while some cantons had argued for this as part of the consultation process (i.e. on a federal level), they would most likely not unilaterally keep the certificate rule in place from February 17th onwards. 

Berset however said he would need to clarify the matter with cantonal representatives and did not rule out some cantons deciding to keep the certificate in place in some instances – for example in relation to nightclubs or large events.

As at Wednesday afternoon, no cantons have indicated they will keep the certificate requirement in place.