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16 cafe owners close their facilities in protest of Mayor’s Office demand

By Tea Mariamidze
Thursday, August 17
Sixteen businessmen who own cafes on the renovated Aghmashenebeli Avenue in Tbilisi have closed their cafes and bars on Monday.

The radical decision was made after City Hall demanded the dismantling of some open terraces on the pedestrian street as those open cafes were arranged without passing proper procedures to receive permission.

The owners of the bars were warned several days ago that if they placed tables and chairs in front of their bars, they would be fined 10,000 GEL.

Nine of the closed bars belong to foreign investors, while seven are owned by Georgians.

The owners of the cafes say that the decision of the City Hall is incomprehensible to them, as most patrons of open cafes are foreign tourists. Also, they say that only sixteen bars have been warned, and the rest of the city’s bars continue to offer outdoor services.

“Nobody has a legal permit for putting tables and chairs outside in this area. It is unfair that others have the right to arrange terraces outside the cafes and we don’t,” one of the cafe owners stated.

Human rights activist Aleksandre Akhalkatsi says that such decisions by the government indicates towards ‘selective justice.’

"There is indirect pressure on foreign investors, especially on this street, "said Akhalkatsi.

Givi Duchidze, chairman of the Association of Bars explains that only those owners of cafe-bars have been warned who did not pass proper procedures in the City Hall.

The Mayor’s Office has also issued a statement regarding the case. Due to the instructions released by the Tbilisi City Hall Supervision Service on August 9, twelve owners of cafe-bars were warned to close open cafes that were arranged without permission on Aghmashenebeli Avenue. Most of them have abolished open cafes, only two of them have not taken any action.

“After the cafes undergo mandatory procedures for arranging open cafes in the relevant services of Tbilisi City Hall, they will be able to continue their activities according to the rule established by law,” the statement reads.

The Mayor’s Office states that other cafes and bars that have not passed relevant procedures will also gradually receive warnings.