Tug of war for Athens beach

The mayor of a southern Athens suburb who recently went on a lengthy hunger strike to protest the illegal nightclubs which were operating on the beach said yesterday that his life has been threatened and accused the bar owners of using legal technicalities to try to reopen the establishments. Hellenikon Mayor Christos Kortzidis went on a hunger strike for more than three weeks to draw attention to the illegal use of seafront property in his area. He called off the action once authorities pledged to clamp down on the practice. The municipal council decided on July 4 to close down and revoke the licenses of three nightclubs – Envy, Reina Summer and Dekko – built right on the seafront in the Hellenikon suburb. The bars are owned by the same company that has claimed a stake to the beach, charging bathers to use the facilities there during the day. The municipality moved to open the beach up so locals could use it for free. Enforcement of the revocation took place on Monday, when municipal officials sealed the bars and put guards on duty to ensure that nobody reopens the businesses. The club owners appealed the decision in court but their case was thrown out. Witnesses claimed that Kortzidis was threatened outside the courtroom after the hearing. A representative of the company that owns the nightclubs also filed a complaint on Tuesday night against the guard on duty outside the bars, claiming he was disturbing the peace. Police arrested the guard and kept him in custody overnight, despite protests from Kortzidis and other municipal officials. A prosecutor ordered the man’s release yesterday. Meanwhile, representatives of the company tried to force bathers to pay three euros each yesterday to use the beach. Kortzidis intervened to allow the residents to use the beach for free.