Greece's tavernas, coffee shops close for pandemic protest

Derek Gatopoulos and Thanassis Stavrakis
Associated Press

Athens, Greece — Associations representing restaurants and catering businesses in Greece organized strikes and protests across the country Tuesday, seeking renewed financial relief from the government due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Normally busy restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and traditional tavernas in Athens remained closed with chairs flipped onto outdoor tables, including in the Greek capital's historic Plaka district.

Protesters in the northern city of Thessaloniki placed an empty coffin outside a government building, while marchers carried black balloons in the southern port of Patras. Brief scuffles broke out at a rally in central Athens when police stopped demonstrators blocking traffic near the prime minister's official residence.

People pass a closed restaurant during a 24-hour nationwide restaurant strike to protest COVID-19-related fines and higher energy costs, in Athens, Greece, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021.

Greece is currently reporting its highest numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases of the pandemic and the highest COVID-19 mortality rate in six months. The government re-imposed some restrictions that target the roughly one-third of the population that remains unvaccinated.

The government's public health advisors have recommended tighter capacity limits for businesses and other measures to control infections. Officials are set to decide later this week whether to implement the recommendations.

As part of the tougher measures, private doctors could be obliged to work for the public health service to cover staff shortages.

Giorgos Kavathas, the leader of Greece’s largest small business association, said businesses are seeking tax breaks and rent subsidies from the government.

“We support the public health measures, but we also need assistance,” he told state run television. “Let’s not forget that in the last 20 months, catering businesses were closed for at least nine, and others without outdoor customer spaces were closed for 12 months. The money that was lost will never be regained, so clearly we need to have a serious discussion.”