Thousands of restaurant owners and staff thronged in Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia on September 8 in a protest against the Covid-19 measures ordered by caretaker Health Minister Stoicho Katsarov.
The protest was a culmination of similar protests in various Bulgarian cities in recent days.
Themed “Freedom for Business,” the protest was backed by other industries, including taxi drivers and suppliers.
The protesters object to the mandatory closing time of 11pm for restaurants and gambling halls and the order closing nightclubs and discos.
They said that they wanted Katsarov either to revoke his order or resign.
The protesters said that if their demands were not met, they would block all key roads in Bulgaria on September 28.
The Association of Restaurants said that close to 50 000 people had not received compensation since the previous closure.
Early on during the protest, various politicians – from Boiko Borissov’s GERB, Slavi Trifonov’s ITN party and the “Rise Up Bulgaria! We’re Coming” coalition emerged from Parliament and entered the crowd. They were loudly booed and asked to leave.
Bulgarian National Radio reported Evgeni Benevrechki of the Federation of Taxi Drivers as saying: “We don’t want them here. I want them in prison!”
The Association of Restaurants called on politicians to return to Parliament and vote “at least a billion leva” in compensation for closing limits. The amendments to the 2020 Budget, yet to be approved at second reading stage by Parliament, envisage an amount between 420 million and 430 million leva.
Some of the protesters said that they would not comply with the ban on nightclubs or the restriction on opening hours.
Already, there have been reports about fines being handed to businesses that have stayed open past the mandatory closing time set in Katsarov’s order, that came into effect on September 7.
A Health Ministry statement on September 7 quoted Katsarov as saying that the protests would not result in the measures being changed or withdrawn.