With the first warm weather restaurants, pubs and coffee houses in Prague immediately set up outdoor eating spaces – from their own walled-in gardens that offer privacy to simply bringing out chairs and tables on the pavement outside the establishment where tourists can stop to refresh themselves and watch life go by in the city center.
In recent years the popularity of outdoor eating places has skyrocketed and the outdoor seating arrangements have grown bigger and more elaborate but, much to the chagrin of preservationists, in some cases also a lot more of an eyesore. Many restaurants have invested in wooden platforms and walled off their outdoor seating places with glass panes to give a semblance of privacy. Some have an outdoor bar and put up TV monitors from which guests can watch sports events.
The comfort for clients has gradually increased, but not so for pedestrians who have to make their way around these open air eateries from early May till late October. After getting numerous complaints from drivers and pedestrians regarding the placing of these outdoor eating spaces Prague City Hall has toughened its stance and thrown its weight behind the demands of preservationists for these eateries to respect the character of Old Prague and not to place unnecessary obstacles in the way of pedestrians.
Some of the recommendations made by conservationists two years ago, which were by and large ignored by restaurant and café owners, are now being enforced by a city hall regulation. Those who continue to disregard the new rules could face huge fines or lose their license. Establishments that operate outdoor eating places in the historic center of Prague will have to respect the character of given area – meaning no more plastic chairs and tables, no more ads splashed on sun shields or anywhere else, no more wooden platforms or outdoor bars. The seating arrangements should be simple and tasteful and provide enough space for pedestrians to walk by without having to cross the street or step directly into the way of cars. Glass partitions have also been banned despite protests from some owners that they protected guests from pick-pockets. Television monitors are also out, meaning that this year regulars to these places will not be able to watch the hockey championship in Prague at an outdoor table with a glass of cold beer in hand. Many owners are grumbling about lost investments but they are already buying new tasteful umbrellas and wooden furniture to meet the new conditions since outdoor eating spaces significantly increase their profits for six months of the year.
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