Ljubljana – Despite the ongoing ban on indoor food service, restaurants in Slovenia are allowed to serve business customers under certain conditions, a senior Economy Ministry official said Friday as he clarified government restrictions following uncertainty over what the indoor eating ban actually means.
The decree banning the provision of goods and services, including indoor dining, “restricts only commerce with consumers. Commerce with business entities is permitted,” Economy Ministry State Secretary Simon Zajc told the government’s daily Covid-19 briefing.
If a restaurant signs a contract with a business to provide meals for its employees, it effectively creates a bubble; as a result, the restaurant is not treated as a public space and restrictions on gatherings do not apply.
In that case the restaurant is considered an off-site cafeteria of sorts, according to Zajc.
If a restaurant signs a contract with multiple companies, it is considered a public space and the restriction on gathering applies, meaning that up to ten employees may eat indoors at the same time.
Zajc indicated the latter option had been possible since the complete ban on gatherings was lifted earlier this month.
The clarification came after media accused Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek of flouting the rules when he held an official function at a restaurant in eastern Slovenia earlier this month.
The event triggered a wave of criticism by restaurant owners who said it was not clear from the government decrees that this was possible; if it was, many would have done that months ago.
Some have even threatened to sue the state for loss of income.
Počivalšek has denied any wrongdoing but said the meeting had been “lawful, justified and very useful, but it was also an inconsiderate move in these difficult times.”
Zajc acknowledged today that communication regarding the indoor dining restrictions was “not good enough”, but added that his ministry had been trying hard to help the restaurant sector as much as possible.
“We really tried hard to mitigate this crisis for them,” he said, adding that he did not want lawsuits from restaurant owners, but if any felt they had been wronged, they had the chance to prove that.
The section of restaurant owners at the Chamber of Trade Crafts and Small Business (OZS), which held a press conference at the same time as Zajc, said they were expecting official clarification from the ministry.
“If it turns out that this information is true, someone must be held accountable,” said Blaž Cvar, the head of the section.
Cvar also called for a reopening of restaurants in general. “We’ve never received information about infections in restaurants, we are justified in making this demand.”
Absent that, restaurateurs want higher furlough payments and a waiver on the mandatory holiday bonuses, which he said many companies would not be able to afford this year.