City seeks to close souvenir shops, exchanges

Stores selling stacking dolls and Russian hats may see leases terminated

The city center has some streets filled with virtually nothing but souvenir shops and money exchange outlets that offer disadvantageous deals to tourists.

City Councilor Jan Chabr (United Force for Prague / TOP 09) is proposing the termination of leases of some shops in city-owned buildings.

The proposal, which is expected to get support from the ruling Pirate Party, will seek revision of the contractual relations concluded by the city company Trade Centre Praha with business operators.

“The city will give instructions to terminate selected rental contracts, especially for the sale of souvenirs,” Chabr said on the City Hall website.

He claims the shops do not benefit the city. The exact number of businesses to be affected has not been determined.

TOP 09 leader Jiří Pospíšil confirmed his party’s support for the idea. “Transparency and the fight against unfair stores in the city center, which create a scandal in our Prague, are the priorities of our program," he said.

Shops around Charles Bridge, for example, are filled with Russian military hats, stacking dolls and other imported items that have little to do with Prague, as well as sweatshirts and magnets with often inappropriate slogans.

Chabr said the closures should only concern sellers with tasteless goods, and it will support sellers of products by Czech companies and local young artists. Chabr wants to promote a more typical assortment for Prague such as Czech glass or porcelain, which make sense as Czech souvenirs.

The City Council also seeks to close dishonest exchange offices in the city center that offer tourists unfavorable exchange rates. The Czech National Bank (ČNB) last year canceled the license of an exchange on Old Town Square after a series of videos by Janek Rubeš, aka the Honest Guide, exposed its practices.

The city is now preparing to terminate the leases for several other unfair exchange offices that operate in city-owned buildings on Železná Street, Jungmannova Street and Národní třída. In one case the city can cancel the lease with three months notice, and in the others the leases will not be renewed.

The Pirates are also supporting nationwide legislation in the Czech Parliament to restrict unfair exchange practices.

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