Restaurants awaiting permission to open outdoor terraces

A bottle of hand sanitizer on a table at Raekoja plats in Tallinn's Old Town.
A bottle of hand sanitizer on a table at Raekoja plats in Tallinn's Old Town. Source: Anna Aurelia Minev/ERR

Restaurant managers are hopeful that the approaching spring will allow them to open outdoor eating on terraces as a means to exit the tough winter of restrictions and closed doors.

While traditionally, the first warm days of the year in Tallinn are accompanied with lively streets and tourists eating and spending time on the outdoor restaurant terraces of the city, the view in 2021 is a little different. Firstly, people are not allowed and secondly, many restaurants have closed up.

Restaurant Kehrwieder has survived the winter, according to the manager, Raoul-Vello Leitham, who said that loyal customers have are mostly to thank.

Rain Tunger, a manager of multiple restaurants and cafes in Tallinn, said that his establishments did not even offer take-away sales because the food offered in the restaurant is just not the same after it has been transported in a thermal container.

"We find that if we want to do something well, we must also form the service. That the boxes would be sustainable and for the product to make it to your home in good enough shape to enrich your dining table," he said.

The first order of business in spring would be to open outdoor terraces as soon as possible, even if only for people to be able to sit there. "It is not like people can come and simply sit outside and eat. We had people sitting here often, taking in the sun without eating or drinking. But even that is forbidden, even if there is 2-3 m of space in between them," Raoul-Vello Leitham said.

Tallinn deputy mayor Aivar Riisalu said the city is prepared to accept the entrepreneurs' application to open outdoor terraces. "Opening outdoor terraces even comes with a rent exemption," he added.

"We will see how this spring will unravel but it seems to me that we should look over these measures ourselves. It is clear that the summer will not bring significant relief. The burden to improve Vanalinn will still be on the locals. It worked during Christmas, let's hope it will work during the summer as well," Riisalu continued.

Raoul-Vello Leitham said tables were already set up this time last year. "There were tables and chairs all out front, tables and chairs on the Town Hall Square (Raekoja plats). The party was on. We were distancing. We had two meters of space, 2+2," Leitham described the situation in 2020.

Rain Tunger said there is a readiness and interest to provide the service. At the same time, the teams must be recruited from scratch but the service sector is attractive enough.

"In the given situation, our teams have mostly fallen apart. The reason is elementary - since we do not have any work and people must provide for their other obligations, everyone has found a new output. This means that we will start recruiting, training and developing new teams," Tunger noted.

Aivar Riisalu said that it is clear that many establishments will not be able to open up again. "The world is not what it was before and restoring it to what it was can take years, if it will ever return to what we were used to."


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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