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Relief and worry as Bavarian brewery reopens to guests

In this photo taken Thursday, May 7, 2020 brewery daughter Iris Detter pours a beer outside her 120 year old family brewery and traditional Bavarian restaurant in Altoetting, Germany.

MATTHIAS SCHRADER/AP

By ASSOCIATED PRESS Published: May 17, 2020

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ALTOETTING, Germany — The Graminger Weissbraeu brewery, which has been in the same family for a century, is preparing to welcome guests back to its restaurant for the first time in two months — with new rules and fears for the future.

Bavaria, one of the last German states to start reopening the hospitality sector as the country gradually eases its coronavirus restrictions, is letting restaurants serve guests outside starting Monday and inside a week later.

Birgit Detter is one of three sisters who run the business just outside Altoetting, a popular tourist and Catholic pilgrimage site east of Munich, together with their parents.

During the coronavirus lockdown, the Weisses Braeuhaus restaurant started offering takeout food and the brewery was able to sell some beer to shops, but "overall it's nowhere near enough," Detter says. The brewery produces 52,800 gallons of beer per year, but is suffering from the restaurant closure and the cancellation of a local festival in June.

It's a relief to reopen the beer garden and then the restaurant for guests, but the new social distancing conditions are "very difficult," she says.

"I am afraid that in the long term it won't work, because the revenue just isn't there — I think the guests will come, but significantly fewer than before," she said.

Among the conditions imposed by state authorities, tables have to be 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart — reducing the number of guests — and servers have to wear face masks, a difficult requirement for hours on end in warm weather.

"The danger will be that we have significantly less revenue but need more employees to fulfil all the conditions, and of course it would be difficult then to keep it up for long," Detter says.

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