Time to go to bars // Nikita Shchurenkov on changing the working hours of drinking establishments

In a year and a half since the start of the pandemic, Russian authorities have already restricted restaurants and cafes three times. After last year’s lockdown, many restaurateurs, forced to reduce their wage bill and utility bills, began to reduce the opening hours of their establishments, refusing to receive visitors at night (see Kommersant, October 27, 2020). The three-week ban on free access to food outlets without QR codes in Moscow until July 19 led to a new wave of restaurant closings and business optimization by the remaining establishments.

In the period from June 28 to July 19 – during the days of the ban – in the capital closed, according to the Ombudsman in the field of small and medium-sized businesses, the founder of the Anderson network Anastasia Tatulova, more than 170 establishments. The Telegram messenger even has a situational channel “Closing restaurants”, where dozens of messages about new losses in the catering market are published daily. Some are closed for a while, others – forever. In total, according to the channel’s estimates, over the past three weeks in Moscow, several hundred points have completely or temporarily stopped working.

Some establishments that continue to work decided to open their doors to visitors not every day, but only from Thursday to Sunday, when traffic is higher than on other days. The trend was especially pronounced in the bar segment. This is the principle of the night entertainment industry – there are only a few clubs in Moscow that are ready to receive an audience at the beginning of the working week.

A similar system of bar operation was successfully applied in European countries even before the coronavirus crisis. For example, in some cities in France, bars were open strictly on weekends, and in Greece – only on certain hours. Such a regime was established by the authorities of the cities. But the owners of Moscow bars have revised the format of their work not because of the officials. Antique restrictions forced entrepreneurs to pay attention to the fact that working on days with guaranteed low traffic only incurs additional costs. Industry participants in a conversation with me confirmed the trend.

The Sidr Group holding states that their establishments Do Not Disturb and Vermuteria have revised the days and hours of operation against the backdrop of recent events. They believe that this is a long-term trend associated with a number of factors. This is a massive transition to a remote or hybrid work format, which is guaranteed to lead to an outflow of people from the city at least in the warm season, and fatigue or fear from a prolonged pandemic, and a drop in the real disposable income of Russians, and the habit of visiting drinking establishments, broken by numerous restrictions.

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