Dubrovnik Considering Ban on New Restaurants for Five Years

Daniela Rogulj

November 9, 2019 –  A new measure could see Dubrovnik ban all new restaurants in the Old Town for five years. 

“It has so far fought overtourism by limiting the number of cruise ships that dock in its ports, banning four in five souvenir stalls, and cutting the number of tables and chairs outside restaurants by 20%. And now the Croatian port of Dubrovnik has suggested an even more stringent measure: an effective ban of all new restaurants,” wrote CNN on November 5th about the potential of a five-year ban for new restaurants in the city. The Dubrovnik Council will vote on the proposal next month. 

Mayor of Dubrovnik, Mato Frankovic, told CNN that, “anyone wanting to open a restaurant in the Old Town cannot put down new tables and chairs for the next five years. They can open inside, but knowing the Old City, it’s very hard to find a place where you can work inside. Ninety nine percent of restaurants work mainly with outside tables.”

Frankovic added that if a restaurant chose to close down, it would remain ‘fully closed’, meaning no new business could enter. 

Since the city council owns all the public space in Dubrovnik, they get to decide whether or not a restaurant can be allocated space outside for tables, CNN explained. 

Slobodna Dalmacija reported that Dubrovnik caterers do not mind the five-year embargo announced by the mayor of Dubrovnik.

For starters, there are already too many restaurants in Dubrovnik’s historic center – and as many as 150 different types, from snack bars to taverns. The locals say they must protect themselves from the competition coming from the outside:

“We agreed that a five-year moratorium would be a good idea because it makes it easier for everyone to do business and plan. Under such a condition, we would have a normal business environment, so this arrangement seems very good to me.

There is also one problem, and I do not know how it will be solved. For example, if one outlet closes in those five years, another outlet cannot be opened in its place, and that public space ceases to exist,” notes Ante Vlasic, head of the Dubrovnik Caterers Association.

Vlasic highlights another drawback:

“We don’t even know what will happen if, for example, the owners of a restaurant change and everything else remains the same. But, in principle, the idea is good, it would provide us with better and easier work,” added Vlasic. The proposal stems from the cooperation between the City and the caterers according to the famous “5x5x5” model, which goes into effect from January 1, 2020.

Mayor Frankovic offered restaurateurs a lease extension on urban spaces and the lease of public spaces to five years, with a five-year moratorium on changes in public spaces and the number of tables.

“All those who have leased space owned by the City of Dubrovnik know that after the contract expires, we are obliged to call for tenders, place the premises on the market, and get new tenants according to the criterion of the best offer. The law did not envisage the possibility of offering a good tenant lease priority. 

We thought for a long time how to protect existing caterers, hired legal experts, and came up with this solution. For all those who lease space in our property, the lease will be extended to five years, which is the maximum legal deadline. Any price adjustments are minimal,” the mayor explained.

“The second amendment relates to the lease of public lands, which has been ongoing year after year, and the new proposal is to conclude public lease agreements for the first time for five years, which is the legal maximum. This applies to caterers both in the city and in private areas. It means five years for everyone, and the price remains the same.

We want to guarantee everyone more business security. Now you know that you will have contracts for five years and you will not be too concerned with who is in power,” said Frankovic.

Finally, Frankovic explained the last “5” of this model, which refers to the moratorium on leasing new public spaces.

“When we sign new contracts on January 1, 2020, there will be no lease of new public spaces for the next five years. There will not be one more table or surface. That’s it. I think this is correct and fair and limits the enormous boom of restaurants inside the historic core that we no longer really need. Catering facilities can still open, but in private facilities and outside a public area,” concluded Frankovic.

Caterers have agreed to the embargo proposal, but are somewhat less satisfied with reducing the number of tables and chairs in public spaces.

Namely, the tables and chairs of hospitality facilities within the historic core extend over 3795 square meters of public space. On the first day of 2020, the coverage will be reduced by about three hundred square meters, as all catering establishments that have leased more than 25 square meters of public space so far will be reduced by ten percent. That provision hits as many as 56 catering establishments.

The restaurant “Dalmatino” has so far occupied 29.5 square meters of space. Owner Robert Jasprica thinks the decision to cut this by 10 percent is not a good one.

“What matters is how the number of tables will be cut. If it’s going to be linear, as I’ve heard, I’m not losing those three, four chairs, but actually more. There will be ten centimeters between these tables, who will want to sit there?” says Jasprica, one of the few caterers who keeps his restaurant open in the winter.

“It’ll cut ten percent of the tables now, which is ten percent less public space, ten percent less traffic. This reduction is crucial to me for 12 full-time employees and for working in the winter. It is easier for me to close the facility on November 1st,” says Jasprica.

Recall, in the flight against ovetourism, Dubrovnik mayor Mato Frankovic also announced last year that no more than two cruise ships per day could dock in the city, which has a 70% success rate for 2019. 

Frankovic also shut down 80% of souvenir stands and 20% of outdoor seating. This other 10% will be cut from January 1, 2020, CNN concluded. 

To read more about travel in Croatia, follow TCN’s dedicated page


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