They will lose the courts, laughed the Pirate already in advance. How they deal with entrepreneurs in Prague

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After the municipal elections in autumn 2018, a coalition was formed in Prague, which announced in advance that it wanted to do practically everything differently than their predecessors. Under the leadership of the pirate mayor Zdeňko Hřib, a team was formed which, according to the slogan of one of the participants, wanted to “take Prague back to itself”.

One of the main topics on which the coalition wanted to show the new order was the changes in the historic center so that it would not be a “Disneyland for tourists”. And as one of the specific villains, restaurants in the city center, offering sitting in the fresh air while eating, were relatively quickly chosen.

For many, “front yards” have become a symbol of everything negative. A number of people objected that some of them actually became other premises in the middle of the square under the awning and the fixed boundary.

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The topic was promoted from the beginning by Kristýna Drápalová, elected to the council for Praha Sobě. A trained art historian from Prague and Berlin, she presents herself as an expert on public space and visual smog. In the “Hřibova” coalition, as a representative of the Praha Sobě movement, she became the main face of the fight against “tourist bad taste”.

Practically immediately after taking office, the municipality began to prepare a document called Accessibility and Cultivation of public space on Královské cesta and Hradébní korzu.

In the summer of 2019, traffic flow was measured in selected sections in the city center. After it, Zdeněk Hřib spread horror stories on social networks about a hundred thousand people passing by every day, but this measurement was criticized by experts as non-transparent and confusing. The experts were really surprised by the calculations, in which hundreds or thousands of people disappeared at the end of one street and did not appear in the next, the entire measurement took place in a single day and was taken for 32 thousand crowns, which, according to critics, is an order of magnitude lower than what expert companies offer.

The representatives of the coalition then preferred not to talk too much about this measurement and instead of “permeability” they started using the word “cultivation”, under which absolutely anything can be hidden.

On March 16, 2020, during the toughest covid lockdown, when restaurants only served through windows, cooks and waiters were out of work, and at all levels it was being discussed how to save this segment of the economy from complete collapse, the City Council of Prague met and approved the final “Permeability and Cultivation” document.

This was subsequently to be the basis not only for new contracts for spaces in public spaces, but also for the revision of current ones. Anyone who did not bring their front yard into compliance with the new principles should have their contract terminated.

The businessmen, with whom, according to their statements to ParlamentníListy.cz, no one had discussed anything, were really surprised. According to them, the document suffered from many flaws and did not take local specifics into account, including assuming that on steep slopes there would be outdoor seating without a platform.

The restaurateurs objected that they still had to comply with quite strict rules and in the center of Prague, which is a UNESCO heritage zone, they had to have stamps from the preservationists, for example. And they reminded that their front gardens also helped things that the municipality was not able to provide, for example in the fight against pickpockets, the former color of Prague.

Subsequently, the document was reworked several times, which Mrs. Drápalová described with the words “its implementation was accompanied by terrible delays, lies, more and more discussions, deceptions of various kinds” for the next two years.

Mayor Hřib praised the document as a complete breakthrough in the care of public space. “Their form is no longer influenced by interest groups, but the rules are modified 100% for the benefit of the people of Prague,” he wrote on social networks.

In the Council, Adam Scheinherr, a party colleague of Drápalová, had this issue under his belt. However, there was definitely no unity within the coalition, and it can even be said that it was precisely because of him that the coalition almost fell apart. Including a slightly bizarre case with an attempt to bribe two representatives, after which representative Drápalová confided in the social network that she had a doctor prescribe neurol.

The pirate Adam Zábranský presented the fight with the “gardeners” before the 2022 elections as one of the biggest successes of the coalition. In the new Council under Mayor Svoboda, he took up this agenda himself and continues the militant trend.


A lawsuit before the deadline

While the non-transparent creation of new rules surprised many, their implementation among actors raises doubts about the existence of the rule of law.

According to them, the approach of the municipality management was very selective from the beginning.

Confusion when receiving the Permeability and Cultivation document (which has been revised three times in total) has thrown front garden operators into considerable uncertainty as to what rules actually apply at the moment. Some gardens were to remain, others were to be reduced in size, and others were to disappear entirely, with substantial changes occurring within individual updates. The criteria of permeability, at least somewhat predictable, were replaced by completely unpredictable criteria of cultivation.

The restaurateurs paused, for example, over the fact that the new rules for the use of air heaters were defended by comparison with cities in Italy, which has a completely different climate.

In April and May 2021, the municipality, without any warning and according to the restaurateurs, in violation of the regulations, began to terminate the leases of some restaurants, which were not even given the opportunity to make changes. In addition, even after three years, some of them did not receive a draft of a new contract that would take into account the new rules.

Some restaurateurs therefore began to defend themselves against the termination in court. According to their claim, the municipality did nothing at all to reach an agreement.

From the point of view of equal access and belief in justice, the fact that some restaurateurs are significantly more “popular” than others on the social networks of representative Drápalová and other coalition politicians is also eroding.

Deputy Zábranský openly communicated via social networks that “unfortunately, in some cases, the changes are not yet realistically visible due to all kinds of delays, but hopefully that will change soon after the operators of the front gardens lose in court”.

The fine that the municipality imposed on restaurants for unauthorized use of the front garden amounted to 10,000 crowns per day. The rent for the use of the public space should be about a third.

However, there were still doubts about the legal status, including whether the new contracts were properly approved by the Prague City Council, which the City Council Commission tried to remove. city ​​of Prague for front gardens. In June 2023, she decided that the operators would be allowed until September 30, 2023 to end all disputes, clear the area in question and submit a visualization of the restaurant garden to the commission for consideration.

During the summer, Councilor Zábranský sent restaurateurs proposals for a settlement, consisting of the termination of all courts, the clearing of front gardens and the signing of new contracts. The restaurateurs agreed with this, but then calls to pay the contractual penalty for the entire period began to appear in their data files.

At the same time, these fines were assessed very selectively, usually to those who fought back. On the contrary, restaurateurs who signed the new contract without a word are usually calm, although according to ParlamentníchListů.cz, some of them did not make the changes required by the new regulations at all.

The icing on the cake should have been the fact that the municipality’s lawyer started filing eviction lawsuits against the restaurateurs “on their knees” even before September 30, 2023, when the deadline for an amicable solution was supposed to expire.

Equal access to all competitors is to be guaranteed by several laws.

The April meeting of the Council should bring clarity to the tangled situation. The chairman of the control committee of the municipality, Ondřej Prokop from the ANO movement, became interested in the topic.

“Fortunately, the current council faced this absurd situation and approved my recommendation that councilor Zábranský discuss this issue immediately at the April meeting of the council and advocate for a systemic solution, including the remission of liquidation fines for the affected restaurateurs. After fulfilling this step, it will be possible for the city to continue with the new methodology of operating restaurant forecourts in a fair and transparent manner,” Prokop told ParlamentníListy.cz.

Councilor Zábranský, however, according to information obtained by ParlamentníListy.cz, ignores not only the operator, but also the petition of the employees, who expressed their concerns as early as December 2023. However, according to the information, Mr. Zábranský has not yet responded to this petition.

ParlamentníListy.cz offered councilor Zábranský, as well as deputy mayor Hřib and representative Drápalová, space to express themselves. If they use it after the text is published, their statement will be supplemented.

It is certainly right that Prague should try to be as attractive as possible for visitors and its own residents. But it is a question of whether we will get better at this attraction through the fair cooperation of the city management, businessmen and citizens, or whether we will believe that this attraction can be painted authoritatively by a few persons who feel their mandate as the right to pursue the “right thing” despite the corpses.

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author: Jakub Vosáhlo


The article is in Czech

Tags: lose courts laughed Pirate advance deal entrepreneurs Prague

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