Nightlife thugs are still a menace on isle of Myconos

A moving event took place on Syros, the administrative capital of the Cycladic Islands, on June 16. The municipality of Myconos and the prefectures of the Cyclades honored Oliver Zammit, the father of an Australian teenager killed last summer by nightclub bouncers. But nobody present could assure him that thugs no longer rule. «Myconos is in a state of chaos,» Cyclades prefecture official Ilias Athymaritis told Kathimerini. «Anyone who fights back is afraid of the mafia.» Officials responsible for inspections on the island expressed their fears and their wish to remain anonymous. Mayor Athanassios Kousathanas-Megas said the tragic event last August had prompted many meetings between authorities and nightclub owners on tackling the problem. «We decided that all entertainment premises with a capacity of more than 1,000 customers should employ professional security staff. Most of them already have.» Yet one member of the island’s union of entertainment and catering businesses SEEDM told Kathimerini that so far only five to six establishments had complied with the new restriction. Council member Yiannis Koukas believes there are still problems that could cause accidents at anytime: «Local police are not operating at full speed. They don’t conduct inspections. Myconos Health Center is in a pitiful state, lacking staff; if something bad happened we wouldn’t be able to cope.» A persistent rumor began on Myconos that someone was out to get Sofia Theologitou, the prefectural employee in charge of health and safety inspections of the island’s clubs, bars and restaurants. She had the reputation of being an exemplary public servant who was rigorously fair. «You have to act lawfully and not depend on anyone,» she often told entrepreneurs. Yet Cyclades Prefect Dimitris Bailas recently relieved Theologitou of her duties, transferring her to Ermoupoli, on Syros. That put paid to any hopes for change on Myconos. It took just one letter of complaint from SEEDM about Theologitou’s inspections to activate the machine and deactivate the annoying employee. In their letter, the signatories do not deny breaking the law but claim they have not contravened its spirit, namely the protection of public health. Most of the infractions concerned the lack of permits for beach bars and outdoor bars. The union demanded that the Environment and Health ministries issue a legal ruling that inspections should only be rigorous when public health issues are concerned. «Otherwise,» the letter continues, «insistence on such inspections will totally destroy Myconos, which is already under pressure from the crisis in tourism and the global economic crisis.» Mayor Athanassios Kousathanas-Megas supported the entrepreneurs and asked the Interior and Tourism Development ministries to solve the problem. When Theologitou commented, «It’s better for me to leave Myconos and get this over with,» the prefect requested she be relieved of her duties «as she has requested.» Now it’s business as usual. Open-air bars still operate, the documents Theologitou asked the municipality to send the town-planning department last September are gathering dust, and inspections of bars are conducted in the presence of highly placed individuals. «Things have gone from bad to worse,» said prefecture official Ilias Athymaritis. «Those who hold real power on Myconos managed to get rid of a responsible, diligent, blameless employee who never gave in to anybody. And that wasn’t popular. You need to know that these people control everything on Myconos, and Sofia wouldn’t agree to become part of that circle.» He added that many on Myconos were «totally fed up. We feel like foreigners in our own place.» SEEDM member and vice president of the municipal council Antonis Kousathanas, who dissents from the union’s letter, which he said was by the board and not by a general assembly, described Theologitou as «strict, in the best sense. That seems to have upset some people, including the mayor, who immediately took their side.» The mayor, however, told Kathimerini «there is no business without a permit on the island.» As for open-air bars, he said they were subject to «an outdated law» that should be amended. «We’ve asked the ministries concerned and have been assured it will happen,» said Kousathanas-Megas. He does not link the union’s letter to Theologitou’s transfer. The prefectural employees’ union requested clarification on Theologitou’s transfer at the last council meeting, which Bailas siad would be supplied at the next meeting. Civil servant responds Prefectural employee Sofia Theologitou is still shocked by the fuss. «I serve the public interest,» she told Kathimerini. «I do my work properly and I clash with cover-ups, clientelism and conservatism. Corruption and lawlessness undermine society and disappoint all law-abiding citizens.» Noting the Myconian tradition of quality public service and hospitality, she called for all interests to be subject to the rule of law.