Polish restaurants seethe over closures but few rebel

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Bukowina Tatrzanska (Poland) (AFP)

Catering business owners in Poland are seething over extended closures due to the pandemic and some restaurants have started taking matters into their own hands by opening up again.

But a major campaign of civil disobedience planned for Monday in tourist-reliant ski resorts in southern Poland failed to materialise, as most businesses adopted a wait and see approach.

In the town of Bukowina Tatrzanska in Poland's Tatras Mountains, an upmarket restaurant called Schronisko Smakow (Shelter of Flavours) re-opened over the weekend and was promptly slapped with a fine on Monday.

"We will appeal against this fine and we hope it is cancelled because it is not constitutional," manager Kamil Sakalus told AFP after receiving the 30,000 zloty (6,600 euro, $8,000) fine.

Sakalus said there was no specific law against opening restaurants and the government had not declared a state of emergency to allow this.

But he said that the fine "won't kill us".

"On the contrary, re-opening this restaurant will allow us to keep our business alive, to safeguard jobs and to survive," he said.

Restaurant openings have also been reported in Poznan in western Poland, Karpacz in the southwest and in the Silesian coal basin.

- Mountain resorts hit hard -

Establishments have been closed in Poland, except for takeaway service, since October 24.

Moves to re-open began last week when the government announced it was extending most restrictions until the end of the month.

This also means that ski slopes, ice rinks, gyms and hotels had to remain closed to the general public.

Some have, however, found ingenious ways to try and get around the rules, including a gym that branded itself a place of worship, an ice rink that said it was a flower shop and a bar in Warsaw that is calling itself a beer academy.

In the Tatras, scores of entrepreneurs have voiced support for the so-called "Highlanders' Veto" movement, which emphasises the particularly dire situation in mountain areas.

The Twitter account @OtwieraMY ("WE are opening") has also been posting the names and addresses of businesses nationwide choosing to open back up.

The government has pledged funds to help ailing businesses and has warned that those that re-open could weaken their chances of getting the money.

Others losing patience include the tourism and hotel industry, which has filed a lawsuit over the restrictions demanding compensation.

The fitness sector is also planning to sue and gyms have said they will re-open on February 1 whether or not the government allows it.