The Ongoing War Over Outdoor Seating in Prague’s Historical Center

For approximately two years, a section of restaurateurs in Prague has been battling the city over outdoor seating areas. According to Adam Zábranský (Pirates), Councilor for Property and Chairman of the Commission for Restaurant Gardens, the disputes are nearing an end. However, it is uncertain whether this will happen as restaurateurs, who had sued the city over lease terminations, are now fighting against the million-dollar fines imposed for not vacating the premises.

The restaurant operators have long criticized the city’s and the Commission’s reluctance to compromise on the appearance of the gardens and to discuss their design. They are particularly bothered by the reduction in the maximum size of the restaurant gardens, which, for some, they claim is by as much as two-thirds. They are also alarmed by the order to remove awnings, which they argue makes their operation problematic.

Amidst this, the criticism for the fines given for the illegal operation of gardens without a contract has also been added. The city of Prague set out to address the often very differently looking or oversized restaurant gardens in the historical center of Prague, especially on the Royal Route or Hradební Korzo, back in 2021 when it approved the garden concept. Subsequently, rules were set for gardens’ appearance, size, and function in the protected area.

However, some operators did not agree to the city’s conditions and did not sign new contracts, thus receiving a termination notice from the city, which they chose not to respect and continued to operate in the termination. The overwhelming majority of hundreds of establishments agreed to the conditions and signed new contracts, but about 12 decided to sue the city. Prague has already won several disputes.

In contrast, Zábranský denies the allegations of forgiving fines and describes the matter differently. “I notified the operators in the summer by letter that if they do not withdraw lawsuits, we will not conclude new contracts with them after the lawsuits run out,” said Councilor Zábranský.

This ongoing dispute between the city and the restaurateurs over outdoor seating areas, coupled with the levying of hefty fines, has not only impacted the operations of the establishments but has also raised questions about the city’s approach to the management of public spaces in the historic center. The outcome of this dispute will set a precedent for similar issues in the future.