Some districts oppose expansion of drinking ban

Prague 2 and Prague 7 want some areas exempted from a full ban on open containers

City Hall is preparing rules to tighten the use of alcohol in public, based on a suggestion from the Prague 1 district to reduce noise and public disorder. But not all of the city’s districts are in favor of the changes, and they want some exemptions put into the proposed changes.

“A ban on alcohol consumption should apply throughout the entire [historical monument] preservation area. Our aim is to simplify and streamline the regulations,” City Hall spokesman Vít Hofman said.

The existing regulations prohibit consumption in designated areas, but the expanded rules would apply to anyone even holding an open container with an alcoholic beverage in their hands in the entire city center. The regulations currently apply to more than selected 800 locations in the city including some streets, squares, business centers, parks, and courtyards. The ban applies to all schools, hospitals, playgrounds, bus stops and their surroundings, but not to the entire city center, and only for drinking, not for simply carrying a beverage.

A draft of the new regulations was submitted at the start of November for a 30-day comment period, and city officials are now evaluating the input. The regulation could be approved by the City Council this month and come into force at the start of 2018.

Prague 1 supports the changes. Ivan Solil (ČSSD), district councilor for safety, said that when the regulations were introduced in 2008 they were mainly directed at homeless people.

“The main problem is no longer homeless, but thousands of people, mostly tourists, and visitors. They … increasingly prefer to use streets, squares or parks as places to drink alcohol and frolic,” he said, according to daily Mladá fronta Dnes (MfD).

The changes to the rules would not only affect Prague 1 but also parts of Prague 2 and Prague 4, Prague 5, Prague 6, Prague 7 and Prague 8.

The leadership of the Prague 2 district is opposed to the changes. “We consider the ban on drinking alcohol in public areas within Prague 2 to be a leap back 30 years in time,” Prague 2 Deputy Mayor Martin Visek (TOP 09), responsible for safety, said.

The changes are too restrictive, he claims. Police already have enough powers to maintain public order, and cameras could be installed in problem areas. He added that the district last year gave City Hall a list of areas where drinking should be allowed, but the city did not agree with it.

If the new restrictions are passed, Visek wants some areas to be exempted from the blanket ban, such as the waterfront at Rašínovo nábřeží, where people sit by the river or stroll.

“If someone buys a beer in a plastic cup at a kiosk and walks along the waterfront, they could face a problem. This seems unreasonable to us,” Visek said.

The ban would also extend to Letná Park in Prague 7, a popular place for local people to hang out. Prague 7 spokesman Martin Vokuš expressed the district’s concerns. “This park is a traditional meeting place for people to have leisure activities. There are various cultural and community events, and last but not least, it is also a popular picnic area. We would not want to prevent people from opening a beer or wine on these occasions,” he said, according to MfD.

Prague 6 does not oppose the changes, but only a small area of the district is affected. Prague 6 Mayor Ondřej Kolář (TOP 09) said the district already has a ban that affects drinking in the small part of Hradčany, the area of Prague Castle, that falls under its jurisdiction.

The Czech Republic has the highest beer consumption per capita in the world, The country has held that position for as long as the independent Czech Republic has existed. Comparative research by Japanese beer firm Kirin using 2015 figures confirmed the top position and showed Czechs drink 142.4 liters each per year, and data from the Czech Union of Breweries and Malt-Houses (ČSPS) for 2016 showed the level stayed the same. Tourism helps to contribute to the numbers.

Europe and the former Soviet states lead the world in overall alcohol consumption, based on the amount of pure alcohol in spirits, wine, beer and other beverages. World Health Organization statistics, reported by Radio Free Europe, show that Lithuania comes out on top at 18.2 liters of alcohol per person every year. Belarus, Russia, and Moldova also come ahead of the Czech Republic, which ties with Romania at 13.7 liters per person. South Korea is the highest scoring non-European country at 11.9 liters.

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