Bid to rein in sprawling cafes

Athens City Hall authorities yesterday expressed their determination to crack down on cafe and restaurant owners who are cluttering public spaces in the city center, following a sweep in the affluent district of Kolonaki on Thursday night by municipal workers who cleared away dozens of illegally placed tables and chairs. The operation, which concentrated on the busy Haritos Street area, was overseen by Deputy Mayor Nikos Vafiadis, who said that some 3,000 tables and chairs had been removed this year and that similar sweeps would continue over the summer. According to a written statement issued by City Hall yesterday, the drive «is part of a wider strategy to free up public spaces and allow citizens unimpeded access to the city’s roads, pedestrianized areas and squares.» Meanwhile, in the busy districts of Rouf and Kerameikos, residents are up in arms over the multiplying chairs and tables on sidewalks and the noise caused by an increasing number of bars and tavernas. According to residents, municipal authorities have failed to make good on pledges to characterize certain areas as «saturated» and prevent any additional operating licenses from being issued. As a result, tables and chairs cover «every inch» of the sidewalks and, in some cases, even spill into the road, locals claim. Municipal construction teams increased the size of the sidewalks, honoring a promise made to residents in March, but these too have filled up with the chairs and tables of various leisure establishments. According to Vassiliki Barka, the head of a local residents’ group, the problems began with the opening of the Kerameikos metro station. «Our neighborhood has turned into one big nightclub. These people are night owls. But we have to work in the morning and we can’t sleep,» she told Kathimerini, adding that intervention by authorities was crucial, and must happen soon. «The situation has got out of control. There are people who are considering taking the law into their hands,» she said.