Why sidewalk dining is banned in Istanbul

The World

Story from PRI’s The World. Listen to audio above for full report.

The district of Beyoğlu in the city of Istanbul is a busy tourist and night-time area with bars and restaurants, most of which had, until recently, outdoor seating sections. Those outdoor eating areas have now gone quiet, after government regulations cracked down on restaurant owners who want to serve meals outside.

“Certain rumor are running around, of course,” Constanze Letsch of The Guardian told PRI’s The World. “Some people say it’s because Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan… got stuck between chairs and tables and couldn’t pass.” Officials are saying they received 1,000 complaints during the first 7 months of the year from residents who say they couldn’t pass through all the tables and chairs.

Restaurant owners are clearly upset about the new regulations, saying they’re losing money and being forced to lay people off. “There’s one solution being offered now by the municipality,” Letsch reports, “which is a 70 centimeter balcony that can be added.” Though that’s hardly enough room to make up for lost revenue.

Some owners have taken the situation into their own hands. Letsch talked to one owner who has “one, sometimes two tables outside, which is not allowed at the moment.” To protect himself, “he pays a guy a monthly fee to look out for the police so he can warn him when the police are near and he can take the tables inside.”

“There is no solution that’s right in front of people,” Letsch reports. “Lots of bar and restaurant goers are unhappy because they can’t go there anymore and sit outside, and residents or people who work in Beyoglu say well, this is actually good because now we can pass through the streets without being obstructed by chairs and tables like we used to be.”


PRI’s “The World” is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. “The World” is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. More about The World.

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