Swedish restaurants are required to follow the Public Health Agency's rules to curb the spread of the coronavirus, including that customers should be able to keep one metre's distance to other groups.
Unlike some of the coronavirus recommendations for the general public in Sweden, these regulations are mandatory, and restaurants that do not follow them could be closed and fined. Since July 1st, decisions to close restaurants who fall foul of the rules are made by the local authorities.
Stockholm City Council's environmental department started to carry out inspections of restaurants and bars back in April. At the time, around a third of all checks led to follow-up reports, for example on crowding, although far from all were so serious the restaurant was forced to close.
But the situation has not improved. In both May and June, one in three restaurants or bars in Stockholm was given negative remarks when the city's health and safety inspectors paid a visit – and as July draws to a close it looks set to remain at the same level as previous months.
“It could be that the venue is not aware of the requirements in the legislation,” Sanna Slesgård, acting head of Stockholm City Council's environmental department, told the TT newswire. “It could also be that the venue is well aware, but that the staff after a while get fed up with placing demands on the customers. It can be exhausting for the staff to go around correcting the customers.”
One example is that restaurants are obligated to make sure there is enough distance between tables, but some report that patrons sometimes move chairs and tables around on their own initiative.
Slightly more inspections have been carried out during the summer period compared to spring. Most venues who fail their first inspection make adjustments and are able to pass the follow-up inspection, according to Slesgård, and no restaurant has had to close in Stockholm in July.
A Gothenburg restaurant offering hand disinfectant to customers. Photo: Thomas Johansson/TT
Sweden's second-largest city, Gothenburg, has not ordered any restaurants to close in July either. However one has been fined and ordered to take measures to make sure the rules are followed.
The situation in Gothenburg suggests a slight improvement. There have been 36 reports of crowding in Gothenburg restaurants in July, compared to 42 in June and in total 105 in April-May.
Most restaurant owners do their best to follow the Public Health Agency's rules, according to Hans Kjellstenius, deputy director of Gothenburg City Council's environmental department. However, he too says that some reports suggest that some restaurant-goers do not take the restrictions seriously.
“The later it is and the more alcohol they have had, the bigger the problems,” he told TT.