Thessaloniki tries to reclaim its sidewalks

Cafe and bar owners in Thessaloniki have been warned that if they do not remove illegal structures that protect outdoor customers from the elements, the municipality?s employees will do it for them.

Thessaloniki Mayor Yiannis Boutaris revealed on Tuesday that the local authority has written to all of the city?s bar and cafe owners to warn them the aluminum and plastic contraptions will have to be removed and that any chairs and tables that have also been illegally placed in public areas such as squares or sidewalks would also have to be packed up.

Thessaloniki has been a challenging city for pedestrians to navigate for some years. The large number of cars in the northern port means that parking spaces are hard to find and vehicles often take up sidewalks or block pedestrians? access to walkways.

Over the last few months, numerous bars and cafes have erected outdoor shelters – described as ?gypsy tents? by Boutaris – for their smoking customers in order to comply with the ban on smoking in enclosed public spaces. However, this has compounded the problems faced by locals who choose to walk.

Authorities have already held talks with residents and business owners about clearing the clutter from Iktinou and Zefxidos streets, which were the first in Thessaloniki to be pedestrianized in 1984. It is estimated that tables and chairs now occupy 80 percent of the surface area of these streets.

Meanwhile, Boutaris denied his administration is tampering with the city?s symbol of Alexander the Great?s head on a blue and white background. ?We have not made any changes to the symbol, nor is this a priority for the municipality,? he said.

Boutaris was responding to a question in Parliament from Kyriakos Velopoulos, an MP for the nationalist Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS). The lawmaker referred to press reports and images that indicated that ?an orange, Ottoman-style crescent? had been placed next to the ancient king?s head.

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