Some Lebanese restaurants reopen with restrictions in place

Not all Lebanese restaurants could afford to reopen after the government allowed them to operate at a limited capacity today.

al-monitor Waiters adjust chairs at a restaurant overlooking Pigeon Rocks as Lebanon begins to ease a nationwide coronavirus lockdown, in Beirut, Lebanon, May 4, 2020.  Photo by REUTERS/Aziz Taher.

May 4, 2020

Lebanese restaurants and other businesses reopened today, but some coronavirus-restrictions remain in place.

The Lebanese government issued new directives today allowing restaurants, hair salons and car dealerships to reopen. Restaurants can operate from 5 a.m. until 9 p.m., but can only hold up to 30% of their capacity for customers. Staff must wear masks and gloves and also provide hand sanitizer to patrons, the Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star reported.

Cafes, club and bars will remain closed until June. Some eligible businesses did not reopen today because they would lose money with the 30% capacity restriction, The Associated Press reported.

One Beirut resident told Al-Monitor that he saw a mix of open and closed restaurants today in the city.

Lebanon put in place a nationwide curfew in March to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Restaurants, bars and other businesses were closed, which created massive losses for the Lebanese economy. The value of the Lebanese pound has fallen by more than 60%, the AP said.

Lebanon faced economic hardship before the coronavirus as well. From September through January, 785 eating and drinking establishments closed, according to The Daily Star. Lebanon has a renowned and vibrant nightlife and restaurant scene that has been hard hit by the crisis. The hospitality industry is a major party of the Lebanese economy, accounting for 18% of the country’s gross domestic product in 2017, the AP said.

Last week, the Lebanese government passed a reform bill and announced it was seeking assistance from the International Monetary Fund to help the economic recovery.

Protests against the government and poor economic conditions in Lebanon largely stopped during the lockdown, but resumed in late April as people faced hardship due to the lost wages resulting from the closures.

Lebanon had 740 confirmed coronavirus cases as May 4, according to statistics from the Ministry of Public Health. Lebanon has received praise for its handling of the virus and low number of confirmed cases relative to some other countries in the region.

The opening of restaurants in Lebanon follows easing measures in other Middle Eastern countries such as Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

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