Members-only beer clubs spring up with aim of keeping pubs open, avoiding electronic cash register system

No bill but regular membership fees, good beer and privacy: those are aims of more and more Czechs either founding or joining new so-called beer clubs, meant to replace classic, often ailing pubs in some towns and villages. According to Czech Radio, interest in founding new such clubs has jumped significantly, at least in part as a means of dodging the country’s electronic cash register system launched last December (and about to go into its second wave) as a means of bringing in more tax revenues and clamping down on the grey economy.

Photo: archive of Radio PraguePhoto: archive of Radio Prague Founding a beer club or association is not as simple as changing a pub’s name: applications have to be legally approved and registered by a court, Czech Radio reports, nevertheless, it is being done. Currently, the broadcaster noted that one association - Klub labužnických pohodářů – has seven thousand members alone, making use of 62 venues across the country.

The chairwoman of the association, Dagmar Krylová, told Czech Radio that in the past some five associations had joined their own per year, but the number had jumped into the dozens, allowing the group to branch out into towns like Třebíč and Sušice. The thirst to avoid the electronic cash register system is clearly high; smokers will have the added (perhaps dubious) benefit of being able to light up on the premises, something that will no longer by allowed at classic establishments after the end of May, when new legislation takes effect banning smoking in all regular pubs and eating establishments.

It’s no surprise that some villages, meanwhile, are opting to found beer associations and ‘clubhouses’: some are too small, with too few inhabitants, to support pubs as a business any longer; for such places, having an association makes more economic sense. Dagmar Krylová told Czech Radio, for example, that she had been contacted by one village of just 64 inhabitants where they had been unable to keep a regular pub running. All of the inhabitants, she said are now members of the local beer club.

In December, the Finance Ministry declared that turnover from restaurants and hotels (and yes, pubs) had doubled from the previous period. Much of that increase was put down to the electronic cash registers system keeping businesses in line. As Radio Prague reported on Monday, a largely inconclusive war of words was also waged over how many small pubs and restaurants actually closed because of the new electronic cash register obligation. Breweries, communicating with establishments have maintained that hundreds closed because of the extra bureaucratic burden. Founding an association of beer lovers who can meet regularly at a local venue (just don’t call it a pub) is an answer. For some a far better option than living in a village where the taps have run dry.