Business owners rebel against new lockdown restrictions

With country beginning its second coronavirus closure, restaurateurs say restrictions harming their livelihoods; many flout directives, remain open

People sit at a cafe in Tel Aviv, September 16, 2020. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)
People sit at a cafe in Tel Aviv, September 16, 2020. (Miriam Alster/FLASH90)

As the second nationwide coronavirus lockdown took effect on Friday, many business owners chose to open their doors to customers, despite the threat of being closed down and incurring heavy fines.

Under the rules of the lockdown, workplaces in the private sector that do not serve customers in person may keep 100 percent of their workforce coming into offices. However, restaurants may only offer delivery, a restriction that many owners say harms their livelihoods.

A Jaffa cafe that opened in defiance of restrictions and was catering to some 50 customers was shut down by police over the weekend, and its owner was given a NIS 5,000 ($1,460) fine.

In an interview with Channel 12 news, the owner of the restaurant expressed his reasoning for not abiding by the restrictions of the second lockdown.

“I announced in advance that I do not plan on closing until I get compensation in my bank account, and I made good on my promise,” he said.

One business owner in the central town of Ramle opened his store and described his creative workaround for the lockdown measures in an interview with Kan news.

After seeing groups of people gather to protest the lockdown measures on the beach in Tel Aviv (protests are still allowed), “I understood from the news that the moment there is a protest, you can be wherever you want. So I put up a sign that says ‘protest,’ so I am allowed to be here [at work].”

The shop owner was later arrested and fined NIS 5,000.

On Sunday, members of the organization Restaurateurs Stronger Together vowed to open their businesses in protest of what they say was both a lack of financial support from the government during the first lockdown and the fact that the current lockdown unnecessarily harms their livelihoods.

Police said Monday that the majority of fines handed out over the holiday weekend — 4,822 — were given to people who ventured out over a kilometer from their homes without valid cause. Another 1,798 were given out for failure to wear masks and 121 were handed out for breaking quarantine.

The statement also mentioned four businesses in Jadeidi-Makr in the north
that opened despite the new restrictions and were closed by police. Each received a fine of NIS 5,000.

Police also said that two illegal outdoor raves were found and broken up, and the organizers were detained for questioning.

Israel had a total of 188,760 cases Monday, of which 51,503 were active. Of those sick, 651 were in serious condition (160 of them on ventilators) and 260 were in moderate condition. The rest had mild or no symptoms.

The coronavirus cabinet is expected to meet Tuesday to discuss more serious restrictions.

While the government was praised for its initial handling of the pandemic, implementing a strict lockdown in March, many Israelis have expressed frustration at the prime minister and the cabinet’s perceived mismanagement of the health crisis in recent months.

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