While Sweden never closed the doors to its restaurants, Norway, Denmark and Finland have had different levels of lockdown. Now the doors are swinging open again. We have talked to Star Wine List sommeliers in all three countries about the new world facing the restaurants.
Jessica Senning is the Oslo ambassador for Star Wine List and Restaurant Manager for Maaemo's upcoming bistro Vandelay:
How is the situation right now for restaurants?
”Bars and restaurants in Norway have been allowed to run their business throughout the crisis, apart from Oslo where venues haven’t been allowed to sell alcohol. But there's been a lot of restrictions, and since the rest of society pretty much has been closed down, it wasn’t until after Easter that venues started to open up again.”
”In Oslo, the alcohol prohibition was lifted on 6 May, but there are still some restrictions; for example, you have to keep, at least, a one-meter distance, and you’re not allowed to be more than 20 people in a group at the same time. Bars and restaurants also have to close earlier at night than before.”
Right now, people are either happy to get back to work or frustrated that their restaurants still haven’t opened
How has the crisis affected the industry?
”The Norwegian government has offered some economic support, and up until now, surprisingly few venues have gone out of business. Most of the workforce in the industry have been laid off, with the promise to get their jobs back when the crisis is over. But, the turnover for the venues opening up is too low, and many will be forced to let people go. We fear a wave of unemployment.”
How’s the general mood in the industry right now?
”Right now, people are either happy to get back to work or frustrated that their restaurants still haven’t opened. Everyone is doing their best to adjust to the situation and the restrictions, but a lot of restaurant owners are worried about the future.”
”If we get a good summer where Norwegians who can’t go abroad spend all their money back home, many restaurants might recover faster than expected. But, everyone agrees that the industry can’t take another lockdown like this in case of a second wave of the virus.”
Rasmus Lunkov Marquart is the Copenhagen ambassador for Star Wine List, as well as Restaurant Manager at Lyst in Vejle:
How is the situation right now for the restaurants?
”The government has recently allowed restaurants to open again, which is part of the large opening of the country. As a restaurant you can really feel and see the guests have been waiting to again come out and support the restaurants. We are all very happy to again be able to go out and enjoy wine. Restaurants and wine bars are following all the restrictions given by the government, so we are not completely back to normal, but getting closer.”
How has the lockdown affected the industry? Have many places been forced out of business completely?
”Denmark has been very privileged with the support from the government, which definitely has helped many restaurants to survive the period. However we are still facing the closed border, which has and will have a very big impact of the business and unfortunately I don’t think we’ve seen the last restaurants to close. Denmark really needs its tourism for the hospitality to keep going.”
Looking forward, what do you see for the restaurants and wine bars in Denmark?
”I think we will see venues come back more focused on the business and have a greater idea and vision of how they can improve. Furthermore we’ve seen many restaurants doing renovations during the period, so we will definitely see more updated venues. We hope to see a great summer, so we can enjoy the waters around Denmark, where many venues has popped up during the last years. Also to keep the Danes inside of Denmark and hopefully that they go for gastronomic vacations in Denmark.”
Taneli Lehtonen, Helsinki ambassador for Star Wine List. Sommelier at Muru, Helsinki:
”Monday the 1st of June, restaurants were able to open their establishments at last. There are still a few restrictions: you have to close doors latest at 11 pm and selling alcohol is forbidden after 10 pm. And seats are restricted to 50 per cent. So far we don´t know the true damage to Finnish restaurant culture, but we will see in the future. In Helsinki, I have only heard about a few venues that have been forced to shut down for good.”
”Many restaurants have now opened their doors and so far customers have been coming back. Some restaurants that depend on tourists, especially in the north of Finland, remain closed since the borders to Finland are closed. Some smaller venues keep their venues closed but focus on selling take out.”
”We hope for a beautiful summer that can fill restaurant terraces. We try to think positive and create enough space for guests to enjoy food and wine.”