English World

Feature: Brussels springs to life again as bars and terraces reopen

Xinhua English


by Xinhua writers James Wright, Pan Geping

BRUSSELS, June 13 (Xinhua) -- For bar manager Luke Nolan, originally from the west of Ireland, the Belgian government's decision to allow the hospitality sector to reopen bars and terraces from May 8 arrived not a moment too soon.

After several months of paralysis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nolan and his two colleagues heave a sigh of relief as they finally welcome back customers to Funky Monkey, a popular bar located in the European quarter of Brussels.

"It's been a major relief for everybody. Excellent for us to be back to work and excellent for our mental health. People can switch off their laptops after work and come out to the pub or go to a restaurant," he told Xinhua in an interview.

To survive the months of lockdown, he and his colleagues sold takeaway meals in the evenings. Though unable to make a profit, they managed to keep the business running.

"We weren't exactly making millions, but ticking over, a bit of money in our pockets and for the boss," said Nolan.

The pandemic took a heavy toll on the hospitality sector in the Belgian capital and many establishments have failed to make the necessary adjustments to weather the crisis.

Luckily for Nolan and his colleagues, Funky Monkey entered into a partnership with Hairy Canary, a smaller bar situated on the corner of the same street. Owned by the same group, the two establishments have managed to lean on each other for support.

"We've had to adapt a lot to the changes, saving money in particular. We borrowed a colleague from Hairy Canary to help out," Nolan said.

His routine got back to normal on June 9, when the country's bars and restaurants reopen their indoor areas to customers. On that day, the first stage of the country's summer COVID-19 relaxation plan entered into force.

Still, Nolan feels his life has been "hectic" ever since the bar reopened. "It's hectic in a positive sense," he said. "We're super excited for the summer ahead and we stay positive all the way through."

Another Brussels restaurant, eager to see things back to normal, has decided to offer a 50-euro (61 U.S. dollars) voucher for customers who got their first COVID-19 vaccine dose after May 26.

Osteria Romana, an Italian restaurant, announced on social media that its offer kicked in on June 9. The deal, valid for the whole month of June, is limited to only one voucher per table. The restaurant aims to encourage more people in the city to get vaccinated in order to reach the projected vaccination target of 70 percent of the population. Enditem