Prague 1 seeks full ban on public drinking

Fine up to Kč 10,000 payable on the spot

The Prague 1 administration approved a draft decree prohibiting the use of alcohol in public throughout the district, which covers the historical center of Prague. The ban still has a way to go before it becomes final, but could take effect early next year.

The new decree is now in the public comment stage. It will still have to be approved by the Prague City Assembly and the City Council, as the district of Prague 1 does not have the authority to issue the decree on it own.

Currently, the ban only applies to some streets and parks, but people and authorities both find it confusing as there is no logic to the choice of locations and often there are no signs warning people.

Newly, people could be fined for having an open bottle or other containers with an alcoholic beverage on the street. The current law requires police to catch people in the act of drinking or have a witness.

Violators would face a much higher fine than before due to an amendment to the law on misconduct, which took effect in July. Police will be able to impose a fine of up to Kč 10,000 payable on the spot, according to Metropolitan Police spokeswoman Irena Seifertová. If the case goes to administrative proceedings, the penalty can go up to Kč 100,000.

Before the amendment, the fine could only be as high as Kč 5,000 on the spot and rise to Kč 30,000 in administrative proceedings.

The draft decree is aimed at tourists and visitors. Previously the problem with alcohol on the sidewalk was related to the homeless, but that is no longer the case, according to the Prague 1 Town Hall.

Prague 1 representative Ivan Solil (ČSSD), responsible for safety, said that visitors to Prague 1 increasingly use the sidewalks and parks for alcohol-fueled antics, at the expense of people who live in the district.

The draft decree has some exceptions. It does not apply to outdoor gardens adjacent to restaurants or the immediate vicinity of snack stands and similar places where alcoholic beverages are sold.

The regulation would also not apply to public celebrations such as wine festivals or other traditional cultural events, or holidays such as New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.

The Pirate Party is opposed to the ban. Pirate representative Jakub Michálek said that the city center is not just for rich people who can afford the downtown restaurants, but also for local people who want to go and have a drink with friends in a park after work. The proposed ban won't solve any problems since the noise at night is made by people who consumed alcohol in pubs, he added.

He told daily Mladá fronta Dnes the Pirates would instead propose a weakening of the current restrictions so people could have picnics in downtown parks. Instead, he wants to see the problematic pubs be held accountable for noise and if necessary have their opening hours curtailed.

Last year, the Metropolitan Police issued citations in 7,629 cases for violating the existing ban on drinking in public.

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