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The words “DO NOT STAND HERE! TABLE SERVICE ONLY!” are scrawled in white marker across the bar’s wooden counter, which only weeks ago was littered with beer mats and crowded with elbows. While the global spread of coronavirus has closed pubs right across Europe, Sweden has hung back, with authorities on Tuesday saying bars and

The words “DO NOT STAND HERE! TABLE SERVICE ONLY!” are scrawled in white marker across the bar’s wooden counter, which only weeks ago was littered with beer mats and crowded with elbows.

While the global spread of coronavirus has closed pubs right across Europe, Sweden has hung back, with authorities on Tuesday saying bars and restaurants could stay open – but only if customers are seated and served at a table.

“This is completely new for both us and our customers… We have 26 taps of beer, which often change, so it’s a little bit confusing when people can’t approach the bar,” Wirstroms owner Martin Hession, 49, told Reuters.

Hession said that despite remaining open his sales are down 75% compared with March last year, forcing him to sack most of his staff.

“I’d prefer to be closed … I can’t understand why the government wants us to stay open while pubs and restaurants are going bankrupt,” he added, as he rushed between the tables and bars of his labyrinthine pub in Stockholm’s old town.

Sweden has like most other countries asked people to maintain so-called “social distancing”, particularly in pubs. “Keeping two metres apart is absolutely easy for us, even natural,” said Asa Jacobsson, 47, as she sipped white wine by a window seat in Hjartats bar, on Stockholm’s trendy Sodermalm Island.

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