Masks removed, Poles applaud the reopening of bars and restaurants | KTAB

People gather and celebrate the reopening of bars, clubs and other establishments in Poland after seven months of closure, in Warsaw, Poland on Friday, May 14, 2021. (AP Photo / Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) – Poles took off their masks, hugged friends and toast their new-found freedom as restaurants, bars and pubs reopened for the first time in seven months and the government has dropped the requirement for people to cover their faces outside.

The reopening, for now limited to outside consumption of food and drink, officially took place on Saturday. Still, many couldn’t wait until midnight to strike and were on the streets of Warsaw and other cities hours earlier Friday evening to celebrate, gathering outside popular water points. Some have brought their own beer to keep them until they can buy drinks at midnight – although some bars have also been seen serving beers and early cocktails.

“Now they open and I feel so good. You know, you feel like your freedom is back, ”said Gabriel Nikilovski, a 38-year-old Swede who drank beer at an outdoor table at the Pavilions, a popular courtyard filled with pubs in downtown. Warsaw. “It’s like you’ve been in jail, but you’ve been in jail at home.”

The DJs were finally back to work and the waiters and waitresses were rushing to fill orders again. Meanwhile, the end of the requirement to wear masks outside has added to the feeling of liberation. Masks will always be required in environments like public transport and shops.

Bar owners were also happy, thanks to the prospect of finally being able to start making money, and many said they were bombarded with pre-opening reservation requests.

“Today we feel like it was New Years Eve because we are counting until midnight,” said Kasia Szczepanska, co-owner of a bar, CAVA, on trendy Nowy Swiat Street in Warsaw. . “It’s like New Years in May.”

The pandemic restrictions have meant that restaurants, cafes and other establishments have restricted themselves to offering only take-out food and drink since last fall.

“Everyone says they are fed up with take out, food served on plastic,” Szczepanska said.

The easing of the country’s lockdown is being done in stages, but reopening bars with outdoor gardens or dining areas was clearly a key psychological step on the way back to normalcy. From May 29, indoor dining will be allowed again.

However, not all businesses have survived the long months of forced shutdowns, even with government assistance, and others will work at first just to recoup their losses.

The easing of restrictions comes as vaccinations have finally accelerated in the European Union, of which Poland is a member, and the number of new COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations has plunged in Poland in recent weeks.

Yet many people still don’t feel like they can fully relax.

Aleksandra Konopka, who runs a bar along a popular Vistula promenade where people lounge on lounge chairs and sip drinks in the sandy garden with a beach vibe, said she was delighted that things come back. But she’s also nervous that there might be more blockages as new virus variants circulate. And she said there are new challenges coming from the difficulty of finding workers.

“Not everyone is willing to work in the gastronomy or hospitality industry because they expect to lose their jobs,” Konopka said. “They have changed jobs and it’s difficult to get service.

One of the patrons lounging in her bar, Monika Rzezutka, said she severely missed contact with people during the many months of lockdown and welcomed the resumption of normal life.

“What used to be the norm suddenly becomes something incredible,” said Rzezutka, a 23-year-old psychology student. “It’s a nice feeling.”

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