French Restaurants Face Reopening Delay as Covid Battle Rages On

French restaurant and bar owners are readying for more disappointment, as rising virus numbers threaten to delay the reopening of the country’s food and wine industry.

The government will push back the planned Jan. 20 reopening of restaurants and cafes, broadcasters France Info and RTL reported after Alain Griset, minister for small and medium-sized businesses, said Sunday that it’s unlikely the Covid surge will be sufficiently contained by then.

“We’re being prepared,” said Charlotte Le Moniet, a spokeswoman for the hospitality industry union UMIH.

French Restaurants Face Reopening Delay as Covid Battle Rages On

Industry representatives met with Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Tuesday. Across Europe, restaurants and bars are being closed or curtailed in a bid to halt the spread of the virus sweeping across the region again. The crisis could cause two-third of French restaurants to disappear, according to a November survey by industry groups.

“It’s completely obvious that Jan. 20 is impossible,” said Laurent Villa, who owns 10 restaurants across France. “We have no choice but to wait.”

The setback will deal another blow to France’s 160,000 plus restaurants, which employ close to half a million people and generate more than 50 billion euros ($61.5 billion) of revenue, according to statistics office Insee.

France is averaging more than 13,000 new virus cases a day, more than double the threshold President Emmanuel Macron set for new infections.

“We’re not surprised, we can see how the health situation is developing,” Michelin-starred chef Michel Sarran told local broadcaster France Bleu Occitanie. “We’ve been closed for six months. A business closed for six months, can you imagine -- how do you expect it to survive?”

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