Prague City Council criticized controversial Christmas market ban

Photo: David W Černý | Zdroj: Reuters

Representatives of the Prague City Council and Taiko, the company that organizes the markets in Old Town Square, have called on the government to reconsider its decision to ban Christmas markets. They are asking vendors to be allowed to sell at least Christmas items such as wreaths and decorations. They are hoping for at least timely compensation, as the stallholders are on the edge of poverty.

At a press conference on Friday, Prague City Councillor Jan Chabr criticized the fact that stallholders cannot sell their homemade Christmas wreaths or decorations in public spaces.  The councilor said the stallholders were preparing for the next five weeks and had adapted their operations accordingly as they expected to make sales. He, therefore, saw the cancellation of the markets overnight as an irresponsible move.

“They can’t sell them outside, whereas in a closed shopping center they can sell these items. It’s a slap in the face to all small business owners, “Chabr underlined. He appealed to the Health Ministry to reconsider its decision.

Libor Votruba, chairman of Taiko, agreed, saying the government was sending stallholders into poverty. “We feel like a scapegoat for some populist decision that solves nothing. Christmas markets are open for a few days in some towns and the numbers (of infected) that are there have nothing to do with them,” he commented.

Chabr stated that one step Prague can take to help vendors is to waive their rent. However, the most important help for the vendors is to receive compensation from the state as soon as possible. “Most of the market vendors are without cash flow. They have bought and produced goods, invested in those stalls and most of them are without cash because now the period has come when they should start paying back, “he noted.

“It is not possible to wait for three or four months to start financial help programs because people will be without money and most of them are not big economic entities. They are small traders and a lot of them can get to the poverty line,” Chabr added.

The government’s decision to cancel Christmas markets overnight was criticised also by Prague Mayor Zdeněk Hřib on Thursday, and he too called on the government to ensure vendors would be compensated, as it could mean bankruptcy for many of them.

“The government’s decision to ban the outdoor Christmas markets is outrageous for all market operators and the stallholders themselves. It’s unbelievable that the stalls were built and now must be torn down again. The government must pay adequate financial compensation to all stallholders, “the Prague Mayor declared.