‘Stop handing out new licenses’

Sarri Street has a small nucleus of alternative, somewhat avant-garde establishments, focusing either on fashion (Occhi and Mata Hari) or design (Mofu) that have have a truly different feel. They moved into Psyrri over the past three to four years and are open roughly the same hours as the galleries (from noon until late at night, including Sundays), firstly because they are aimed at a similar clientele and secondly because they have the same goal – to create an alternative to the monoculture of the tavernas. But Anna Polydorou, owner of Occhi, finds it hard to be optimistic. She said that over the past year an attempt was made to breathe some fresh air into Psyrri – no new restaurants opened, just galleries and theaters – and it seemed something was changing. However, the trend stopped abruptly with the Olympic Games. «We suddenly saw a lot of new restaurants, nightclubs and cafes opening in the district, obviously in the hope of attracting visitors to the Games,» she said. Nevertheless, all is not yet lost. Polydorou knows many artists and designers who are coming to Psyrri, either setting up in the loft they have dreamt about, or establishing a studio. She believes that licensing will be the decisive factor. «If they don’t stop handing out licenses, the current situation will continue,» she said. There have been some developments there – Athens Deputy Mayor Ira Valsamaki has been leading a campaign over the past few months against the issuance of new licenses for new restaurants and bars in Psyrri, culminating in a unanimous vote by the municipal council a few weeks ago to classify Psyrri as one of the city’s «full house» districts. However, the ruling is essentially void if it is not implemented by the Environment and Public Works Ministry.