How inner-city exercise is helping small cafes to survive

Zondag café in Groningen, the Netherlands

In the midst of the Covid-19 lockdown and the newly mandatory curfew, some cafes and bars manage to survive thanks to the increase of walkers and joggers around the city of Groningen, even if it is for one cup of coffee.

In the Netherlands, apart from exceptions such as takeaways, bars and restaurants have been closed since the 14th of October. On the 12th of January, the measures were then extended until at least February 9th. Therefore, the majority of these businesses rely on takeaway as a main source of income.

“We are lucky to be located here,” says Jonne, a waiter at the Zondag café, a small and cozy establishment situated in the middle of the Noorderplantsoen, the central park of Groningen. “ Obviously business is not the same as it was before the lockdown, but we get a lot of customers who are out for a walk or a run and stop for a warm beverage…it is always full during the day!” says Jonne. The strategic location of the park, combined with the well-maintained trails and canals makes such a location perfect for practicing sports, jogging, and even simply walking  around to escape the boredom of one’s home.

With gyms and sports facilities now closed, more people are now leaving the house, with parks the preferred location for many. According to the NOC*NSF (The Dutch Olympic Committee*Dutch Sports Federation), during lockdown, walking had an increase of 15 percent of new people in the Netherlands, followed by jogging with 14 percent. The Dutch National Prevention Program (NPP) also encourages the population to do around 30 minutes of activities a day for health benefits.

Although it is winter, parks, beaches, and other outdoor locations have become more crowded and popular during the lockdown period. “ After working from home the whole day, we cannot wait to go out for a walk… it is good for our mental and physical health,” says the Bolognesi family, husband and wife in mid-50s who started to walk regularly after stricter lockdown measures.“ Every day we go to the lake next to our house and get coffee there, it is like a routine”.

With more people in the city of Groningen, small businesses not suitable for home delivery who cannot compete with larger food chains can benefit and make some profit from selling homemade sandwiches and warm beverages to battle the cold. Although for only a relatively small profit, the slow repopulation of the city streets could have a positive impact on some local businesses. 

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