3,3 million people tuned in to watch Prime Minister Mark Rutte announce the latest stage of relaxations on Tuesday evening, and while many were glad to hear that the 1,5-metre distance rule was being lifted a year and a half after it was first introduced, the hospitality and events industries have taken issue with the introduction of a new coronavirus certificate system.

Business owners refuse to enforce new coronavirus certificate ruleUnder the new rules, either physical or digital coronavirus certificates are mandatory at cinemas, restaurants, nightclubs, bars, theatres, concert halls, and (professional sporting) events. By requiring all patrons to present either proof of vaccination, proof of recent recovery from COVID-19, or a negative test, the government hopes society can (re)open without the enforcement of the 1,5-metre distance rule. 

However, even before Tuesday’s press conference, the hospitality industry voiced their frustration with the new rules, stating they wouldn’t be checking for coronavirus certificates. In a statement, Koninklijke Horeca Nederland (KHN) said it was “inexplicable” that restrictions were being lifted for society while new rules were being imposed for bars and restaurants, and that businesses were still being forced to close at 12 am when financial aid was coming to an end.

KHN chair Robèr Willemsen said he feared many business owners would no longer comply with or enforce the coronavirus rules: “Support for the current measures was already low among catering entrepreneurs, but with this extension and reinforcement, I expect that a limit will be crossed and that many catering entrepreneurs will no longer enforce the rules.”

Businesses, police officers, or BOAs: Who will enforce the new rules?If business owners refuse to check coronavirus certificates, then who will be responsible for enforcing the new rule? Rutte announced that extra funds will be made available to municipalities in order to ensure the certificate system is thoroughly enforced by local police and community service officers (BOAs). 

But Richard Gerrits, chair of the BOA trade union, has said BOAs are not responsible for checking coronavirus certificates, arguing that that responsibility should lie with business owners. “We are not going to expose boas to dangers,” Gerrits said. 

Hubert Bruls, mayor of Nijmegen and chair of the Dutch Secutiry Council, has seconded Gerrits’ view. Bruls said “further coordination” was required between the council and the government in order to determine how the rules will be enforced, but made it clear that “primary responsibility lies with entrepreneurs and customers,” with the government intervening if the situation escalates.

Amsterdam mayor concerned about reopening nightclubsThe press conference also saw Rutte announce that nightclubs would be able to open their doors once again, however they two would have to adhere to the enforced opening times for the hospitality industry and check coronavirus certificates at the door. The KHN also takes issue with this, arguing that the strict rules are “just as bad as a complete lockdown…as nightlife doesn’t start earlier than midnight.”

Femke Halsema, the mayor of Amsterdam, has also voiced her concern about the rules for nightclubs. While she is supportive of the new coronavirus certificate system, she is worried that the continued (partial) closure of clubs may reduce vaccination motivation among young people. “Why should the system of only letting in vaccinated or tested people work at 11.30 pm but not at 12.30 am?” Halsema asked. 

The KHN and the Security Council have called on the Dutch government to lift the enforced closing times for nightlife in the Netherlands.

Dutch event sector says relaxations are too little too lateThe events sector has also complained about the new rules for events and festivals, stating that while the relaxations are welcome, it’s too little too late for the festival season. Furthermore, festival and concert association VNPF says the enforced closing time of midnight will severely impact their programme and income, and argues that the maximum capacity of 75 percent for indoor non-seated events makes little sense. 

Cinemas have already taken action against the coronavirus certificate system, calling on the Dutch government to make an exception to the rule for movie theatres: “Allowing visitors with corona tickets will lead to fewer visitors going to the movies: simply put, the corona tickets raise a huge visitor threshold,” says Gulian Nolthenius, chair of the Dutch Association of Cinemas and Film Theaters (NVBF).

Many businesses may be frustrated by the new rules, but other industries were relieved to hear they would be able to reopen. The Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) was pleased to hear football stadiums could once again be filled with fans: “Finally a full house again, where the players on the field are maximally encouraged by as many supporters as possible.” Museums were also pleased to hear they would be able to welcome more visitors and organise more events.

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