At a time of uncertainty for those whose businesses survive through the tourism sector, restaurants, street vendors and many others, are now faced with a drastic decrease in tourism, coupled with government measures to restrict freedom of movement that are potentially disastrous to the economy. The Portugal News spoke to various Algarve traders about the current situation.
In Alvor, we find Bella de Rose, owner of Ciao Baby, an Italian restaurant, who tells us a little bit about what her business is facing. “It is almost not worth opening the doors. Alvor has been deserted, we don’t see anyone walking on the streets”, she said.
For Bella, if the circulation restrictions are bad, the communication failure is worse. “For us (in the Algarve) the ban was related to circulations between municipalities, it was not the restriction of a curfew after 1pm, but people do not come to the streets of Alvor because they think that those restrictions, also are applied in the Algarve”, she said.
Pedro Azevedo, one of the owners of the restaurant O Quinto Império in Portimão, shares the same opinion. In his words “I have to agree with the government measures because of what is happening in the country”. However, he criticizes the way in which communication is being given: “There is no coherent discourse about this topic, which causes total confusion in the population that has several impacts in the sector”. For instance, “We had billing losses of 20 percent between October and November”, he said.
After all, could we circulate after 1:00pm on weekends, in the Algarve? The answer is yes, in most Algarve municipalities. According to DL 9/2020 of 21 November the application of restricted freedom bans circulation between 11:00pm and 5:00am and after 1:00pm during weekends, only applying to the counties included in the list of Very High Risk or Extreme Risk and importantly excluding those who are included in the high risk or moderate risk level counties.
On the other hand, it is in the municipality of Lagoa that Antónia Cobrinha, owner of A Vela restaurant in Carvoeiro, commented: “We can’t move between municipalities, but people do it anyway as there is no security forces on the road to check compliance”.
In addition she states that it is “ridiculous” for restrictions to forbid circulation after 1pm. “We have already done everything, we have reduced the number of tables to ensure distance, we disinfect the menus after each use and we create a QR code” so customers are able to see the menu without touching it, said the owner whose restaurant is now closed for the winter.
Many businesses have decided not open this winter. This is also the case for Tiago Laginha, owner of Ò Carcaça Street food and bar who has also felt the effects of the pandemic and the lack of tourists comparing to last year. Ò Carcaça Street food e Bar is a food truck that sells food and drinks usually in Praia do Carvalho, Lagoa council.
“In my case, food trucks have to follow the same legislation as restaurants, because for all intents and purposes, I am registered in Autoridade Tributária (Tax Authority) as a restaurant. I am considered a non-sedentary restaurant, that is, I can sell take-away in places where I have a license to sell, but I can’t have people eating in front of the food truck”, explained Tiago. In his opinion, this is not correct because every type of business should have its own law. “It shouldn’t be the same”, he said.
With this, there is only one certainty, the situation facing the food industry is looking bleak and the sector is being forced to reinvent itself in order to find financial solutions while always safeguarding health. The only hope for many of the businesses is the introduction of a vaccine which could be the light at the end of the tunnel for them.