Prague 1 seeks to expand drinking ban

The district has grown tired of waiting for City Hall to approve a proposed blanket ban

Prague 1 wants to expand the list of places where it is forbidden to drink alcohol in public due to ongoing complaints from local residents about noise.

The ban could be extended to Malostranské, Anenské, Dražického, Maltézské and Velkopřevorské náměstí and Nerudova, Karmelitská, Mostecká, Rámová and Bílkova streets.

The expansion was approved by the Prague 1 District Council.

Prague City Hall is planning to overhaul the existing rules for street drinking, but this has turned into a long process due to public comments and political debate.

Prague 1 wants to make changes on its own based on the existing rules from 2008 that allow for a ban on specific streets and locations, as this could be implemented much sooner. The resolution passed by Prague 1 needs to be approved by the City Council.

A blanket ban covering all of Prague 1 as well as most of Prague 2 and Prague 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 was supposed to take effect in early 2017, but the City Council failed to reach a final agreement on it, and it has been stalled. City Hall spokesman Vít Hofman said the issue would again be discussed this week.

The originally proposed blanket ban would not apply to street seating in front of restaurants or to street festivals. It would, however, apply to open containers whether or not people were seen drinking from them. Fines would also go up.

"We have evaluated the comments we have received on the distributed draft amendment and have prepared a simpler version of it," Hofman said, according to daily Hospodárske noviny. He declined to show the new text as it has not been finalized.

The original text was criticized by the Pirate Party because it would unnecessarily restrict freedoms of Prague residents who could want to sit in a park or at a swimming area with friends and have a drink after work, for example. The Pirates criticized that the center has become so expensive that local residents can’t afford to sit in a pub, and having a quiet drink in a park with friends was an affordable alternative.

The existing decree prohibiting drinking in selected public areas took effect in 2008. It has been amended several times, most recently in 2013, when the number of sites doubled from the original. The ban now applies to more than 800 places.

In some of the areas, there are signs warning people of the ban and a possible fine of up to Kč 5,000. In other areas, there are no signs, and people drinking on the street could be caught unaware. Critics say there is no logic to the areas that are included and excluded, making it hard to know where it is legal to drink.

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