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RESTAURANTS

State by state: What are the new rules for eating out around Germany?

As of Monday, restaurants in each of Germany's 16 states can open their doors - albeit with different restrictions. We break down what they are.

After closing their doors in mid-March except for takeaway, most restaurants, cafes and beer gardens around Germany are now back in business. While most share the same hygiene measures, such as maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres for guests who aren't together, they have different rules.

Some states require the collection of contact information in the event of a coronavirus outbreak, while others are only open outside.

Here's what you need to know, state by state.

Baden-Württemberg

Restaurants in the southwestern state can open as of Monday, both inside and outside. However, there are strict new regulations, both for customers and employees. Payments should be made by card if possible, and customers must eat and drink sitting at a table, all of which are to be set up 1.5 metres apart. Employees are also required to wear a face mask.

The establishments will also take down the contact information of guests so that they can be contacted in the event of a coronavirus infection. It will be deleted four weeks later, however.

Bavaria

Restaurants, beer gardens and cafes in Bavaria are also reopening their doors on Monday, at least for the outdoor area. The indoor area will follow on May 25th.

Face masks will also be required for employees and guests, when they leave the table. Tables will also be spread 1.5 metres apart, and their data will be taken down in the event of an infection. 

READ ALSO: Bavaria unveils detailed plan out of lockdown as coronavirus cases drop

Berlin

Both the indoor and outdoor areas of restaurants and cafes were allowed to open from Friday May 15th under strict hygienic conditions. Guests are now required to disinfect their hands before they take a seat, and sit 1.5 metres apart, including at bar stools. Buffets are also forbidden. The eateries can stay open from 6 am to 10 pm. 

The Senate has recommended that outlets ask for contact information from dining guests in case there is a coronavirus infection but it is not required.

Meanwhile, servers have to wear face masks.

The Local's Rachel Loxton went back to a cafe after it reopened for the first time in two months at the weekend.

Brandenburg

The same rules apply to Berlin’s neighbouring state of Brandenburg, where gastronomy also reopened its doors on Friday. The state government recommends that anyone interested in eating out makes a reservation first.

READ ALSO:

Bremen

Eateries in Germany’s northernmost city-state also opened their doors on Friday, with the requirement that only half of the available space can be filled. There is not only a required 1.5 metres between guests, but also two metres must be allocated between tables. 

The establishments are also required to take down guests’ data in case of an infection, which they can delete after three weeks. There’s a ban on eating at built-in bar tables, and guests must be served – that means that buffets are quite literally off the table. 

Hamburg

Unlike most other states, the Harbour City – where restaurants reopened their doors on Friday – is allowing guests to also eat standing. However, establishments must also take down the contact information of their guests and require a distance of 1.5 metres. Buffets are also banned.

Hesse

Restaurants, beer gardens and cafes in the central state also began welcoming guests on Friday. They require that diners leave their contact information and keep a distance of 1.5 metres apart – with only one person per five square metres allowed. There also can’t be any objects on the table for “common use” such as salt and pepper shakers. 

Meckenburg-Western Pomerania

The northeastern state has opened all restaurants, but requires that all guests make a reservation in advance. Only six people are allowed per table and the establishments will take down the information of one contact person per group. They are also encouraged to accept payments with cards rather than cash.

Lower Saxony

The central state became one of the the first in Germany to reopen all restaurants last Monday, May 11th. However, it requires that only fifty percent of the space is filled. Guests are also required to leave their contact information, which will be deleted after three weeks.

READ ALSO: 'We have to think in phases': Is this how Germany can return to life with the coronavirus?

North Rhine-Westphalia

Germany’s most populous state also allowed all restaurants to open as of Monday, May 11th. Unlike in other states, they don’t have any limit on the number of guests nor operating hours. However eateries must ensure a distance of 1.5 metres in maintained, and take down the contact information of guests.

Rhineland-Palatinate

The western border state reopened restaurants last Wednesday, May 13th, requiring that guests wear masks when they leave the table. Restaurants will also take down the contact information from guests, which they will delete after a month. Guests are also required to use hand disinfectant which has been installed at the entrance to each eatery.

Saxony

Restaurants in the eastern state of Saxony opened their doors again on Friday, with only a recommendation that guests leave their contact information in the event of a possible infection. The state has also encouraged eateries to give the option of card rather than cash payment. In addition to basic social distancing rules, however, it’s also mandatory that each restaurant provides hand sanitizer to guests at the entrance.

READ ALSO: Coronavirus: A taste of normality as first restaurants reopen in Germany

Saxony-Anhalt

Theoretically, the first restaurants and cafés in Saxony-Anhalt can reopen on Monday, May 18th. However, owners must apply to do so and have their hygiene concept checked individually by their responsible district or city. Those who want to save themselves this procedure can open a few days later, on May 22nd. 

Each hygiene plan must include only serving five people per table, and keeping a distance of two metres for tables which are outside.

Diners eating in the city centre of Eisenach, Thuringia on Sunday. Photo: DPA

Saarland

Restaurants in the state along the French border are also opening their doors on Monday, permitting only table service and banning buffets. The contact information of diners is also recorded, but will be deleted after a month. Unlike in other states, there must be a notice posted informing guests of the new rules.

Schleswig-Holstein

Restaurants in Germany’s northernmost state were also allowed to open on Monday, under the requirements that they close by 10 pm, offer hand sanitizer to guests and also inform diners about the rules. A maximum of 50 guests at any given time are allowed in the restaurant.

Thuringia

The eastern state requires guests and staff to maintain a 1.5 metre distance whenever possible. Restaurants can also open both indoors and outdoors, except for two counties hit particularly hard by the coronavirus: Greiz und Sonneberg.

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COVID-19 RULES

Bavaria pushes for stricter Covid regulations in autumn

Health ministers across Germany's 16 states are debating the government's new Covid plan - and politicians in Bavaria say they want more clarity.

Bavaria pushes for stricter Covid regulations in autumn

On Tuesday, federal and state health ministers planned to discuss the Covid protection proposals for autumn and winter presented last week by Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) and Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP).

However, some states and politicians are not satisfied with the plans. 

Under the proposals, masks will remain mandatory in air and long-distance transport, as well as clinics, nationwide. But federal states will be able to choose themselves whether to introduce further measures like mandatory masks on public and regional transport.

States will also have the power to take tougher Covid measures if the situation calls for it, such as mandatory masks indoors, but lockdowns and school closures have been ruled out. 

READ ALSO Masks and no lockdowns: Germany’s new Covid plan from autumn to Easter

The draft law states that there can be exceptions from wearing masks in indoor spaces, such as restaurants, for recently Covid-vaccinated or recovered people. 

But Bavaria’s health minister Klaus Holetschek (CSU) told DPA that these planned exemptions were not justified because vaccinated and recovered people can still transmit infections. “There are clear gaps in the current draft law,” said the CSU politician.

Dominik Spitzer, health policy spokesman for the FDP parliamentary group in the Bavarian state parliament, also questioned this exception, saying the rules “simply made no sense”.

“With the current virus variant, that would be impossible to convey, since even vaccinated people can continue to carry the virus,” the FDP politician told Bavarian broadcaster BR24. 

The coalition government’s graduated plan under the new Infection Protection Act, is set to be in force from October 1st until April 7th next year. 

The powers for the states are a first step, “but they do not go far enough for us”, Holetschek added, while calling for some points to be tightened up. “We need strong guidelines for autumn and winter.”

Holetschek said the government needed to tighten up the criteria with which states can adopt and enforce more effective measures to protect against the spread of Covid-19.

READ ALSO: Could Germany see a ‘patchwork’ of Covid rules?

Meanwhile, CDU health politician Erwin Rüddel said Germany was on the “wrong track” and the country should find “a completely different approach” to Covid policy than it has so far.

He accused the coalition government of being in “panic mode” and said he doubted the Bundestag would pass the proposals.

“I believe, there will be significant changes (to the draft)”, he said.

But the chairperson of the doctors’ association Marburger Bund, Susanne Johna, backed the plans.

“The proposal for the new Infection Protection Act gives the states sufficient possibilities to react adequately to the infection situation,” Johna told the Rheinische Post on Tuesday.

“The states can take regionally adapted measures to protect people if the need arises. I can’t understand why this concept is being called into question right away.”

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