When Germany shut down restaurants and bars to combat the spread of the coronavirus in early November, restaurants were again sidelined by the pandemic. After all, the festive holiday season is usually one of the most lively times of year for the European nation.
But one Berlin restaurant decided to channel the holiday spirit in a different way. The capital’s biggest restaurant, Hofbraeu Berlin, which is used to 3,000 guests crowding into its Bavarian-style beer halls on a good night, has pivoted into sheltering 150 homeless people, the Associated Press reported.
“Normally, during Christmas time, we would have many groups here for Christmas parties and then we’d serve pork knuckles, half a duck or goose … but not at the moment… We’re still doing delivery, but obviously that’s only a drop in the bucket,” Hofbraeu manager Bjoern Schwarz told the AP.
With regulations preventing them from opening as a restaurant, they worked with the city and welfare organizations to use their wide-open indoor space to try to help the city’s estimated 2,000 to 12,000 homeless — an estimated figure after 34,000 have already been placed in shelters, the news service reported.
“We’ll offer them something different from the regular soup kitchen food — real dishes on porcelain plates, with different sides, we’ll try to offer Christmas-style dishes with lots of flavors,” Schwarz added.
For Kaspars Breidaks, a 43-year-old Latvian, who came to Berlin to look for work and ended up homeless after his passport was stolen, the restaurant has provided a source of joy during a trying time, he told AP. He had heard about the location from other homeless people at the train station and headed there, hoping for hot soup. Instead, he found a choice of food, either Thuringia-style bratwurst with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut, or a vegetarian stew with potatoes and vegetables. To top it off, there was apple strudel with vanilla sauce for dessert.
It was quite a change from his previous nights, when he struggled to stay warm in below-zero temperatures by a department store in the same square at Alexanderplatz.
The idea came from a restaurant employee who works at a local shelter, and Schwarz immediately loved it since it also provided jobs to his employees, as well as some income.
Beyond the food, the restaurant also allows the homeless to wash up in their restrooms, and provides clothes and counseling as needed, all within the boundaries of the current COVID-19 restrictions, AP reported. The giving spirit of Hofbraeu Berlin doesn’t end there. On its Facebook page, they shared they are collecting donations to create packages of practical Christmas gifts for the homeless, in conjunction with welfare organization GEBEWO-Soziale Dienste-Berlin. Items like sweets, warm socks, thermal underwear, gloves, and hygiene items, can be dropped off on Dec. 22 and 23, 2020, between 12 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the restaurant.
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