Bar owners on Greek island angry over virus restrictions

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People gather at the narrow streets of Matogiannia after the bars closed at midnight on the Aegean Sea island of Mykonos, Greece, early Sunday, Aug. 16, 2020. The Greek government has been worried about the recent surge in coronavirus cases that threatens to undo its initial success in keeping infections and deaths at low levels. On the island of Mykonos, an internationally famous tourist destination, restaurants, bars and cafes were forced on Aug. 11 to close at midnight, and not to reopen until 7 a.m. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

MYKONOS – Wary of a rise in daily coronavirus cases that threatens to undo its relative success in containing the pandemic so far, the Greek government is imposing local restrictions on businesses, especially those that cater to big crowds, and business owners on the island of Mykonos don't like it one bit.

“You can’t take a unilateral decision and shut down the island the following day, at midnight,” bar owner Stavros Grimplas told The Associated Press of the government edict on Aug. 10, imposing a midnight closing time on bars, cafes, clubs and restaurants from Aug. 11 until Aug. 23.

“Everyone has come (to Mykonos) to eat their food, to entertain themselves, swim in the sea. At this moment, we are fooling them. We told them ‘come to Greece’ and Greece has shut down," a clearly frustrated Grimplas continued.

When Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis officially declared the tourist season open on June 13, he had said that “there is no risk-free approach.”

Back then, there were 3,112 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 183 deaths. As of Saturday, the total cases were at 6,858, with most of the new ones coming in August, and 226 deaths.

Mykonos is a textbook case of crowds coming together. Off-season, the small island is home to 10,000. In the summer, it welcomes over 2 million visitors who are attracted by its reputation for the high life and a hedonistic lifestyle.

This summer, there will be nowhere near the same number. For one, cruises, which account for about a third of visitors, aren't happening. But people on the island say that hotels are at about 70% capacity, an unheard of number compared to other Greek tourist destinations.

On Saturday afternoon, beaches were quite crowded. After the midnight closing time, large crowds of people were milling around in the town center, many with beers they had bought from a kiosk.