Place du Luxembourg, or Place Lux, is an iconic square in Brussels. It may not boast the impressive architecture of the Grand Place, but it is surely a cultural attraction in itself which brings in the crowds, albeit a different type of tourist.
Located in the European Quarter in front of the European Parliament, the square is lined with bars and restaurants and is a popular after work drinking place for Parliament employees as well as those working in the EU related field, like Lobby groups, NGOs and others. A Thursday night sees the place filled with people, drinking, eating, talking and networking. It is known throughout the city as the place to be.
However, that was before the Covid-19 pandemic. Travel Tomorrow spoke to Kemal Eryuruk, owner and manager of London Brasserie in Place Lux, who gives an insight into how difficult it has been for the bars and restaurants in the area.
No income, no savings, nothing.Kemal Eryuruk, owner and manager of London Brasserie
Even before the hospitality sector was forced to close its doors, the bars and restaurants in Place Lux were suffering. Teleworking rules and strict borders regulations meant the EU buildings emptied, and of course no workers means no clients. The bars and restaurants that used to fill with their own kind of tourist, the politicians, the working expats, the travelling interns, were empty. Kemal tells of the financial difficulties thats bars and restaurants like his are experiencing. Forced to close in the most recent lockdown on 10th October and unable to open since, they have nothing left. No income, no savings, nothing. Despite receiving government support, he explains the two payouts (of €3000 and €4000) don’t even cover one month of rent for the premises, and there are of course still bills to pay. Meanwhile his team of ten or so workers are unemployed.
Kemal describes how everything is closed in the area, and even the option of takeaway, which many establishments have used to generate income during the lockdowns, is not really much of a viable option for them as there is simply no one in the area. With everyone working form home, the working neighbourhood is empty and no one needs a take-away lunch or an after work drink.
Place Lux is a unique place. Pre-pandemic it thrived on a being a social scene, with festival like scenes in summer as people spilled out of the bars onto the grass. The features that once made it so desirable, however, now pose more risk in the age of Covid-19. How can you even begin to space people out to enforce social distancing? Will the square, once bars open again, continue to function but on a minimal level? It will certainly be different. For Kamal concern is not so much for overcrowding when they can open but that the number of clients will be limited. Although he is hopeful that with warmer weather coming there may be the possibility of opening the terraces, he is concerned that the Parliament won’t be working at full capacity, with many employees still encouraged or asked to work from home, and so the clientele simply won’t be there. Whilst other bars and restaurants elsewhere in the city may welcome back their customers, who eagerly await the reopening, the future is very uncertain for the businesses of Place Lux.
Let us hope that, despite teleworking continuing to be a strong presence in many of our lives, enough people remember the joy of a drink in Place Lux and work their way back to the celebrated square after the reopening.