Laws simply don’t apply in this neighborhood

The problem with the nightclubs centers on the area bounded by Aristophanous, Aghion Anargyron, Taki, Karaiskaki, Miaouli, Agatharchou and Lepeniotou streets and Iroon and Aghion Anargyron squares. Within this perimeter are over 120 nightclubs and bars – all crowded together along the narrow streets, most of them without any sound insulation. Most violate the laws on closing hours, play music at full blast and nearly all violate the terms of their operating licenses, while some don’t even have operating licenses or permits for property use from the relevant ministries or town-planning bureau. Some have even put tables out in the forecourts of churches, which is prohibited, while others that were closed down by the municipality for breaking the rules have re-opened without being inspected. The police rarely appear to carry out inspections or keep order, but mostly restrict themselves to issuing parking tickets. These days Psyrri is going through a second decline. From a neighborhood in which families and workshops existed side-by-side in harmony, the district has become a place where middle-class Athenians come to let off steam and fringe groups from Exarchia descend in droves, making life unbearable for the residents. What goes on at night there goes beyond the bounds of simply disturbing the peace. It is more in the nature of a social upheaval – if a local dares to protest, he or she is at immediate risk of personal injury in the form of attacks and beatings. «On Friday and Saturday nights, there are scenes more like soccer hooliganism,» said Dimitris Pontidas, the head of the Association of Residents, Merchants and Manufacturers of Psyrri. «Our neighborhood has become a place for people to let off steam in any way they like. It seems as if someone will have to get hurt before the authorities decide to police the area. We let the authorities know, as is our duty, that we are desperate but no one listens. Some are saying that in previous years the district used to be a hangout for drug addicts and that now it has improved. That is a lie. If anything, it is now that the drug addicts have moved in. «We are trying to keep our families in the area, but we are faced with the complete indifference of the state. Instead of improving, the situation is deteriorating even further because of the nightlife. No limits have ever been set despite our protests to the authorities concerned, and repeated memoranda to the municipality, the Ministry for Public Order and the Athens police headquarters. We have reached the point where we are begging them to do the self-evident, that is, their job.»