A few days ago I wanted to write an article on the new DPCM which I admit disconcerted me, and not because I am a denier or one who downplays the danger of the coronavirus. This decree - with the restaurants closed at 6 p.m. - I was taken aback because it definitely brings a category and all the activities that revolve around it (including my own) to their knees. That's why when I received Massimo Bottura's letter to Giuseppe Conte from the press office, I decided to bring it here. The whole content of the letter is what I have been repeating for days. So we start here.

Closed restaurants: Massimo Bottura's letter to Giuseppe Conte

I ask myself: but who are we? I believe that today a restaurant, in Italy, is worth a Renaissance shop: we make culture, we are ambassadors of agriculture, we are the engine of gastronomic tourism, we do training, and now we have started a 'humanistic' culinary revolution that involves the social. Hospitality and catering, art and architecture, design and light are the cornerstones of our identity. Over the last five years, more than 80 b&b's have sprung up in Modena, thanks to a micro-restaurant like the Osteria Francescana. Gastronomic tourism has been born, where thousands of families, couples, and friends spend two or three days, travelling around Emilia, to discover and celebrate the territories and their heroes: farmers, cheesemakers, artisans, and fishermen.

Focusing on catering, few people today have liquidity, in fact today more than ever we feel alone. We closed in March and you asked us to reopen after three months, respecting the rules. We did. So many people went into debt to get into compliance: masks, gels, temperature scanners, saturimeters, air sanitisation, tests for the entire staff, alternate entrances, spaced tables. To emerge from this unprecedented crisis, we need hope and trust. Hope is what keeps us in an active and proactive condition. Trust is believing in the potential of ourselves and others.
The main force that has always sustained us is the dream, not the profit. Today, without liquidity, because so many continue to dream with the daily takings, many will not make it and the country will lose one of the pillars of its identity.

Lack of cash first leads to non-payment of salaries, then suppliers, mortgage repayments and finally rents. We need a signal to restore confidence. Now we risk depression. Now we need courage and stimulus. To find the will to continue and not feel alone.

In concrete terms, we need:

  • of evening closure at least at 11 p.m..
  • by liquidity as a parameter of turnover.
  • of lay-off at least until European tourism stabilises.
  • of decontribution 2021 since by 2020 we have already fulfilled in full
  • of thelowering of the VAT rate to 4% for next year.

Politics is about courage and dreams. It is similar to poetry. It is made of imagination and the future. Politics must make the invisible visible.

Massimo Bottura

As I anticipated, I had already published a post on my Instagram profile the day before this letter went viral. My humble protest against the crazy decision of restaurants being closed at 6pm.

My Instagram post of Monday 27 October 2020 with my first comment on Giuseppe Conte's new DPCM.

Just a couple of evenings ago @_emanuelepellegrini_ invited me to spread the hashtag #iostoconiristors and to join their 'cry for help'. I'll be honest, I didn't want to believe it right away. I did not want to believe that such a measure would be signed.

I live in Lombardy, in the province of Brescia. Mine is a small commune #covidfree for months, but people have died here too. Every morning I wake up and look at the other side of the lake, where beyond beautiful mountains the #valserian was a theatre of death. When they paraded the coffins in the military trucks at #bergamoI was a few steps away with my husband and no, I do not forget. I will be honest, to me the #coronavirus it's scary. I'm afraid that my mum or aunt might get sick. I am afraid that we might get sick. I am afraid that someone I love might get sick.

This government found itself in one of the worst situations since the Second World War. A difficult situation, where to err is human and perhaps inevitable. I am proud to have @giuseppeconte_official because he is serious and does not incite hatred for a handful of votes. Indeed, Italy has been a model of pandemic management and Conte has been praised by the @nytimes to the whole of Europe.

There is a BUT. I don't know anything about medicine or politics and I am reasoning as an ordinary citizen who has been experiencing a heavy situation for months. What does the 1TP5Restaurants o i #bar? You have asked restaurateurs for a financial commitment to adapt in order to stay open. I frequent many restaurants from North to South for work, and I dare say that I have seen very serious entrepreneurs, who have tested my fever at the entrance, who have marked my name and contact details for tracking, who have had my hands sanitised. I have seen rooms with plexiglass or giant tables for a few people. I have seen capacities more than halved. I have seen a category that has really tried hard to restart because being closed means starving families. Behind a 1TP5Restaurant revolve around a whole host of activities. Starting from my world of wine to those who wash tablecloths.

This is a mistake that I humbly ask you to rectify.

Closed restaurants vs. saturated and dirty public transport

To my words, so close to Massimo Bottura's, I want to add another thought. Right a couple of weeks ago I was in Milan almost every day for the Milano Wine Week. Perhaps you have read my article on the Lugana Masterclass or the one dedicated to Partesa's masterclass on foreign wines.

To go to Milan I first took a third-world TreNord train connecting Sale Marasino to Brescia, then a regional train connecting Brescia to Milan Greco Pirelli. At Milano Centrale station on one of the two days I didn't even manage to arrive because, although I had left well in advance, the 15:28 train was almost an hour late and my event started at 18:00. However, while on the train to Milano Greco Pirelli I found a seat, albeit shared with three other passengers close together, on the train to Milano Centrale I was standing between the seats squeezed in with so many people because there was no room even in the connection between the carriages.

The real scandal, however, was the Milan metro, which I have always praised for its cleanliness, continuity and punctuality. Fewer trains than usual, cancelled stops, tons of people on every corner, no spacing. These trains were not full of people going to restaurants - also because it was 4pm - but of people travelling to school or work. Now, you've asked restaurants to buy a hundred and fourteen thousand dicks, to space out tables, to sanitise, to test... and the restaurateurs aren't good, they're very good because they've put in the effort to restart. And now you want to saw off all the evening takings which are moreover the engine of the restaurant since most at lunchtime are either closed or do a workers' menu which with what it costs is more of a promotional vehicle in the hope of acquiring new customers at dinner?

But above all, do you want to tell me that if my husband and I go to a restaurant tonight for dinner with one table in Milan and one in Naples because of how far apart they are, all sanitised, hygienised, etc., we risk infecting ourselves more than on the train or metro in Milan? Do you really believe that? Really?

It is not me here who has to repeat the cuts and speculation that have taken place in the transport sector in Italy. In Lombardy in particular, because I can assure you that in Emilia-Romagna, TreNord's run-down, barrier-ridden trains haven't run since the late 1990s.

What I am saying is very simple: do you want to do a partial or total lockdown? Take appropriate measures to prevent thousands of families from starving to death before they even have to bother to flush the toilet after having flushed years of sacrifices to build companies and materialise dreams, big or small, down the drain. In this sense, Massimo Bottura's proposals are the same as mine (he added the lowering of VAT, which I had not arrived at!). Can't or won't you take these measures and save the people who 'live by the day' from losing everything? Then you MUST give them the chance to work.

In short, either you actually help people or you let them work. Losing your job means losing your dignity. It means not being able to put a plate on the table and feeling cramps from hunger, sometimes vomiting. Losing your job means having your electricity, gas, water cut off. It also means giving up proper personal and household hygiene, which is the first resource we can deploy to overcome this virus.

Closed restaurants: starred chefs protest

Bowerman: "The whole world knew the situation would happen and it seems from what happened that they were taken by surprise. This is unacceptable. It is not possible to keep the entire population and the entire business community in suspense. There has been no communication from Prime Minister Conte. We are talking about 3 Dpcm in the space of five days. I don't dispute that, in fact in some ways I think a total closure is more protective, but what's missing is the part about financial aid to businesses that have to close at 6pm. It's unacceptable that a government can't imagine that businessmen are scared because they don't know what will happen. Right to close, prevent deaths and contagions, but you have to tell me what will happen. I know I have to close and I don't know what I will get. I still don't have the codes to clear my F24. There was no mention of financial aid. It is right that they are given, it is not a concession from the government. It is money we have paid, money to which we have a right of access."

Andrea BertonIt is a difficult situation, but more attention was needed for the catering activities. Perhaps it was right to diversify between the different activities and not to penalise those who have made so much effort and investment to comply with rules and protocols, so as to ensure safety'.

Ciccio SultanoMy restaurant, like anyone who has stuck to the rules and enforced them, has been a kind of medical garrison. In the magnum sea of the restaurant industry, situations and behaviour are not always the same. To lump everything together usually denotes a background of fear or misunderstanding of reality'.

Niko RomitoThis decree seems hypocritical to me because it leaves us open as a sop but in fact, by closing us at dinner, when most of us are working harder, it cuts over 60 per cent of our turnover. It would have been more responsible to close all restaurants for 20 days and give us financial relief. So instead it's crazy, even managing employees: what do we do, put them on part time? And again: in what spirit do people come to the restaurant if the tables have to be four and only for relatives? All this just hurts us'.

Antonino CannavacciuloWe have been in compliance since May, complying with laws and regulations, reducing the number of covers, providing distances. We did everything to reopen safely and now we risk having to close again. It should not have come to this. For the effort we put in we don't deserve it. We will organise ourselves as we have always done,' Cannavacciuolo explained, 'After that, though, why have we been reduced to this? This summer we have seen parties everywhere, full boats... And restaurateurs who have, rightly, respected the rules now find themselves once again at risk of closure. No, we should have avoided loosening up too much over the past few months. After all, Italy has done a great job by closing down for months. Abroad, on the other hand, where they opened too early or never closed are worse off than us. This advantage should not have been wasted'.

I invite you to read Wladimir Carlisi's full interview on COOK - Corriere della Sera by clicking HERE.

This year the number of suicides has doubled compared to last year, although it still does not even come close to the number of Covid deaths in Italy. From 44 suicides in 2019 to 71 in 2020. Covid's confirmed deaths to date are 37,905but with the flooding in Lombardy and the disaster of the various RSAs there are certainly many more. So I am not here to belittle anything. I am afraid that these figures will change... or perhaps not. And if even the majority of Italians will cling to life, invent new ideas, try to survive... what will they tell their children when the water will not come out of the tap and for the third consecutive year they will only eat beans? Will they have to be reduced to begging for a plate of pasta and a shower from their elderly retired parents, perhaps even risking attacking them with Covid?

Beans gentlemen, not onions which now cost too much because they give us an excuse to cry.

Cheers 🥂

Chiara

As always, I invite you to scroll down the page and leave me a comment. What do you think of this measure of restaurants closed at 6pm? Are you for or against a new lockdown? What do you think of this article?

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