Prague 1 Town Hall would like to prevent entrepreneurs of restaurant gardens in the city centre from being able to keep them open late at night.
The owners of about thirty restaurants in the centre united forces and founded an association to prevent it.
According to the spokesperson, the city hall wants to support night peace in the city centre. “We want Prague to be at the level of other European cities, standing on the side of residents. Currently, we are dealing with gardens in Prague 1 that close after the time adjusted, at eleven, midnight or even at two in the morning.”
The Association of employees and operators of hospitality POHO resists reducing the opening hours of the gardens. It was created last week and had over thirty businesses with around 1,200 employees enrolling in just a few days.
“Under the pretext of protecting night peace, 300 businesses with gardens are under threat. It would be a significant intervention in the economy of business, with a negative impact on employees,” said the chairman of the association, Petr Bauer. According to him, restaurants with gardens make about 300 million crowns a year.
At the beginning of October, the Association asked all representatives and the Prague City Hall management to reject the Prague 1 proposal. It has not been decided yet. In addition to reducing comfort for tourists having dinner as the main meal of the day, businesses also point out they have higher garden fees compared to other European cities, one of the highest in Europe.
“The only thing we will achieve reducing the operating time by two hours is that before ten o’clock our guests will have to leave the gardens in Prague 1 and therefore go looking for a place in the neighbouring city districts. No one will benefit,” Bauer continued.
“In western cities, it is common for historical squares to be open after ten o’clock in the evening. Banning gardens in the centre of Prague after ten o’clock does not solve the problem, only redirects it to the surrounding city districts, where noisy tourists will move. The safety and noise problem should be solved with the City Police as a priority and not with the regulation of legal business,” said Jiří Pospíšil, current chairman of the centre-right TOP 09 party.
The establishment of the Association of employees and operators of hospitality POHO is welcomed by the Deputy Mayor of Prague 1, Petr Hejma, who is ready for negotiations. “As the deputy mayor of Prague 1, whose responsibility is to promote entrepreneurship, I assure entrepreneurs and businesses that we are not preparing any sanctions and measures that would discriminate against responsible and thoughtfully functioning establishments. On the other hand, I would like to point out that establishments with front gardens that do not strictly observe their obligations and required regulations will be severely penalized,” said Hejma.
According to the Prague 1 Chamber of Commerce, the current attitude of self-government and state administration is not sufficiently transparent and equal to all entrepreneurs.
“Those who abide by the rules deserve respect and a stable business environment without surprises, incomprehensible and unexplained decisions. If someone does not follow the rules, let them be sanctioned,” said the chairman of the Chamber, Vladimír Krištof.
Most restaurant front gardens in the metropolis are in Prague 1. To operate the front yards, entrepreneurs must obtain a permit from the district, and they must also rent an area from the metropolis.
Four years ago, raised wooden floors had to disappear from the front gardens. It was also prohibited to install TV screens, something very popular, especially for watching sports.
Although restaurants pay a lot of money to take over public spaces, for many, the expansion of the business area with front gardens is an essential part of their business.
What bothers them the most is that they are not sure if they will get the necessary permission, even if they fit all the requirements. The 1st Deputy Mayor of Prague 1, Petr Hejma, will promote the change.
According to the Prague 1 Chamber of Commerce, the current position of self-government and state administration is not enough transparent and equal to all entrepreneurs. “There will be a sanction if someone does not follow the rules. However, if they adhere to them, they deserve respect and a stable business environment without surprises and difficult or unexplained decisions”, said the chairman of the Chamber, Vladimír Krištof.
The Deputy Mayor of Prague 1, Petr Hejma, also acknowledged this. “The front gardens must satisfy the aesthetic requirements of the historical centre; they must not disturb and restrict their surroundings or prevent passage and are obliged to follow the opening hours strictly. If they adhere to this along with other regulations, I do not see a significant reason why entrepreneurs who operate their front yards properly and without major problems should not have a license for the next season”, said Hejma.
According to the Chamber of Commerce, the behaviour of officials and politicians so far does not correspond to the enormous financial contribution of the restaurant front gardens to the municipal revenues. “They are a major source of income for both Prague 1 and the capital. In 2018 it was roughly 150 million crowns”, emphasised Vladimír Krištof, giving an example in which, an entrepreneur asks for permission for a similar front yard that was allowed a few hundred meters away, but without an explanation, he will not receive it.
The price for placing the front yard in a public space in Prague is high; for example, compared to Vienna, up to ten times. In Prague, you pay for the occupation of the city district between ten and sixty crowns per square meter per day.
Of course, it depends on the attractiveness of the position. You have to pay a similar amount to the Technical Road Administration in Prague.
Therefore, it is not a surprise if the amount paid per month for one front garden exceeds 100 thousand crowns. Prague is one of the most expensive cities in Europe regarding this aspect.
Moreover, according to Krištof, entrepreneurs are charged with a large amount regarding administration.
The Prague 1 Chamber of Commerce has, therefore, started a request that will allow entrepreneurs to apply for a renewal of their front garden electronically every year. “This application is ready, but its implementation in the authorities has been stalling for months”, Krištof criticised.
The Chamber also promotes for entrepreneurs the right to obtain up-to-date information on closures and other events that restrict their premises, the right to reduce the rent for a period of unconstrained restriction or the right to announce any non-renewal of the lease in advance to avoid unnecessary thwarting investment. According to its 1st Deputy Mayor Hejma, the Prague 1 Town Hall is prepared for such a meeting.
“We as self-government must require business people to fulfill their duties, but on the other hand, it is in the interest of our city district and its residents to support them and create quality service. Also, thanks to revenues from the occupation of public space, Prague 1 has enough resources to finance quality education, social services, grant policy, and other services”, declared Hejma.