A number of restaurants across Israel opened their doors to the public on Saturday, allowing patrons to enjoy their meals in outdoor seating areas in defiance of current pandemic regulations that mandate eateries prepare food for delivery or takeaway only.
Customers are not allowed to eat on the premises, according to the regulations. Israel’s news channels called the move a low-key rebellion as many eateries have struggled to survive and have not received clear indication when they might reopen. Owners have also pointed to problems caused by regulations that permit customers to eat on an adjacent bench but not a table supplied by a eatery.
The charge appears to have been led Saturday by Susu and Sons owner Omer Miller, who opened the hamburger restaurant’s doors to customers in Tel Aviv. Miller told Ynet he had not made the decision lightly: “I am ready to pay a fine because I know I am breaking the law.”
“The goal is to raise awareness about the situation restaurants are in, because we have been forgotten,” Miller wrote in a Facebook post. “It’s an absurd situation where you can huddle on the sidewalk, but not eat in a restaurant safely.”
“Thank you all, for the support.. We hope to stay healthy and to restore sanity to our lives,” he wrote.
Israel’s Channel 13 reported that dozens of restaurants and eateries across the country arranged outdoor seating for customers and let them stay on the premises while maintaining social distancing rules of two meters between tables.
אומנם מנוגד לחוק אבל אבסורד: לקחת אוכל לספסלים מימין- מותר, לקחת אוכל ולשבת על השולחנות מעבר לקו (בתחום המסעדה) משמאל- אסור. הבעלים עומר מילר: "מוכן לקבל קנס כי אני יודע שאני מפר את החוק". @ynetalerts pic.twitter.com/yU9WFHJqK7
— איתי בלומנטל Itay Blumental (@ItayBlumental) May 16, 2020
According to the reports, the restaurants are hoping to prompt a government decision to let them reopen and host patrons outdoors while adhering to hygiene and physical distancing rules.
Currently, outdoor gatherings of up to 50 people are allowed according to loosened restrictions as of May 15.
Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai backed the move to reopen restaurants, saying the 50,000 restaurant and cafe workers in the city need to get back to work.
“To me, it’s not a question of whether it’s possible to open restaurants or not. Sometimes there’s no choice,” he told Channel 12 news.
Earlier Saturday, thousands of people visited the country’s beaches as the country sweltered in a heatwave, despite the continued restrictions.
The crowds hit the beaches for a second successive day, following a rush on Friday. Israel has gradually eased restrictions on outdoor activities, but beaches are only formally supposed to be open on Wednesday.
On some Tel Aviv area beaches, bathers were ordered out of the water via announcements on loudspeakers, and told that they were breaching the regulations.