The City of Vienna has confirmed that it will extend the regulation allowing the sidewalk eating areas, known as Schanigärten, to continue open during the winter season.
The Schanigärten is the Austrian term for the tables and chairs set up on the sidewalk in front of bars and restaurants. The establishments need a special permit to set them up, as they are built in public areas.
Usually, the licenses are only for the spring and summer months. Still, with the coronavirus pandemic, businesses in Vienna have been able to keep the seating areas open during the cold season.
The goal is for Viennese gastronomy to offer its guests “maximum comfort and even more safety over the coming autumn and winter”, according to a press statement. Businesses that have a summer Schanigarten permit can extend it to February 28th.
The Austrian capital said the measure would also provide financial relief to companies, as they will save costs of dismantling, temporary storage and reassembly of the areas.
During the 2021/22 winter season, more than half of the Viennese restaurants took advantage of the offer and kept the areas open over autumn and winter.
“Due to the current pandemic situation, it was clear to me that the extension of these special measures also makes sense for the coming winter season because we must continue to do everything possible to help Viennese entrepreneurs continue to run their business successfully”, Finance City Councilor Peter Hanke said.
Coronavirus cases continue rising
The outdoor seating areas are also seen as safer for guests than crowded indoor rooms, especially as the numbers of new coronavirus infections continue rising even during the summer.
On Monday, July 18th, Austria’s Health Ministry reported 8,449 new coronavirus cases after 62,364 PCR tests were taken. There were 1,301 people in hospitals being treated for Covid-19 (143 more than the day before), and 76 people were in intensive care units.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, 18,934 people have died from Covid-19 in Austria. Only 61 percent of the population has valid immunity protection, which consists of a combination between valid vaccines and/or recovered status.
Despite rising Covid-19 numbers, the government says that the situation in hospitals is still manageable and that it does not expect any new restrictions to be announced in the short term.
However, Austria’s Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) had already warned that measures such as mandatory use of masks would likely come back during the autumn months when transmission of airborne viruses tends to increase.