On Monday, June 1, bars, cafes and restaurants opened their doors and welcomed customers again, following a two-month nation-wide closure because of the coronavirus pandemic. The opening, which is part of the government’s gradual easing of restrictions, still came with some limitations, most notably shorter opening hours, as establishments must for the time being close their doors at 23:00 and stop serving alcohol at 22:00.

As fate would have it, June 1 also turned out to be a lovely summer’s day, especially towards the afternoon. Terraces opened all around Helsinki, and the people came out in droves to have a beer in the sun, a luxury many have been missing during months of self-isolation.

At a terrace in the Narinkkatori square located in the Kamppi district of Helsinki, some people had gathered to share a glass of bubbly in the warm evening weather on June 1, 2020. Picture: Tony Öhbeg for Finland Today

 On Vaasankatu, in the Helsinki district of Kallio, chatter and laughter had returned to the area known for its night life. The bar and restaurants that line the street had their terraces set up, and the patrons all seemed to be involved in spirited discussions with their friends. Meanwhile, people kept coming in and out of the bars, carrying glasses of beer they had just ordered or empty pint glasses they had just drained.

A friend who lives nearby was telling me how dull the street looked while restrictions were in place, and how nice it was to see it again bustling with life. 

Restaurant Teerenpeli in Kamppi is known for its craft beer and crowded terraces. On Monday, a few people had gathered to have a few. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Perhaps expectedly, there was not much social distancing on display, with terraces operating at near-full capacity.

As the afternoon waned and the sun sank behind the buildings, we left the terrace and moved indoors. Here, at least in the bar we visited, there were much fewer people than outside. When the lights flickered on and off, signaling the last call at 22:00, a line formed from the bar all the way to the entrance, and the bartender was taking orders and pouring beers like on an assembly line.

Another terrace in Kamppi was famous for drawing in a young crowd before the coronavirus pandemic. On June 1, it seemed that the recovery had begun. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Our discussion had gravitated around everybody’s respective work, our plans, reminiscing about the good times, and finally current affairs, in particular the recent situation in the United States. Strangely enough, coronavirus was hardly mentioned. It seemed like a thing of the past, especially in light of this year’s tendency to pile one calamity on top of the other as the months go by.

When we emptied our glasses and everyone had said their piece about the state of the world, it was time to go home. Tomorrow was a workday, and the bartender deserved a rest, too.