Expansion of Plaka bars shelved

Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias yesterday called for a stop to legislative reform that would likely lead to the establishment of more bars and restaurants operating in Athens’s historic Plaka district, following outraged protests by residents at such a prospect. Souflias said he had «given orders» for no amendments to be made to a presidential decree restricting construction in the area. The changes would have paved the way for the creation of tavernas and bars on all floors of existing neoclassical buildings. Currently such establishments are only allowed to operate at the ground floor level. Souflias’s intervention followed comments by Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis on Tuesday. The mayor had said he was «not aware» of a proposed change to the current law and that he was «surprised» by the complaints of the local residents committee. «I hope those concerned are not the same individuals who have already built swimming pools or proceeded with other alterations to their luxury homes and do not expect decisions that will transform Plaka into private property,» Kaklamanis remarked. Plaka residents protested angrily earlier this month after reports that Souflias’s ministry had proposed alterations to the law restricting bar and taverna activity to buildings’ ground floors. The ministry had expressed its intention to overhaul the law in a bid to prevent the second floors of old buildings from becoming occupied by homeless people or drug addicts. However, the residents of the area of Plaka, beneath the Acropolis, queried this explanation. «We believe that this decision effectively serves the motives of particular interests,» Giorgos Kandaletas, the secretary of the Plaka Residents’ Committee, told Kathimerini. The ministry’s original proposal reportedly followed suggestions by local business owners who want Plaka to regain some of its old color, resembling an entertainment district more than a quiet neighborhood attracting tourists and locals.