We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Table Wars in Campo Santa Margherita

 The peaceful existence we'd come to know and love in Campo Santa Margherita is unfortunately a thing of the past, at least for now.We're in the midst of  full blown Table Wars, and it's getting uglier every day. For days on end in August and September there were articles in the local papers discussing either the previous night's events in the campo, or the status of the situation at the mayor's office.  And, most days, we'd see the local police out measuring the tables and chairs at each establishment, making sure that they were within regulation. No one can extend beyond the space they had been approved for, and were paying for.  Anyone who had an infraction was the recipient of fines levied on them, often to the tune of them being assessed every single day.

These lovely ladies have their tape measure out in front of Mille Vini wine bar, and are busy calculating the bad news of the day.

What's happened in Santa Margherita this summer actually  is two distinct things, in my view.  First, there are congregations of large numbers of students and young people in the campo, late into the night and early morning, making lots of noise, bongos included. This has ticked off the residents of the campo big time, and they took their complaints to city hall.

Someone at city hall, in their infinite wisdom, decided that the root cause of the noise and ruckus is the cafe's and bars being open after midnight selling alcohol. So, what did city hall do?They mandated that no alcohol be sold after a certain hour, and actually closed down the pizza place, the gelato shop, and the kebob shop after 11:30 pm.  After much back and forth between city hall and the shopkeepers of the campol, they decided the gelato shop could stay open later. He doesn't sell anything that might contribute to this. Sadly, the late night noise continued, almost nightly.  I suppose city hall got angry at being ignored, so they retaliated.  Our officials declared there would be "Zero Tolerance" for any infractions of city rules--- and they enforced this with a vengence in Campo Santa Margherita.  And thus, the beginnning of  what I have nicknamed "Table Wars".

There are a few newer cafes and wine bars in the campo who had applied to the city for permission to have tables outside in the campo.  Let's face it, in warm weather, establishments need tables outside to attract customers, especially in a campo like this one.  From what I understand, the permits had been applied for, but not yet processed.  As the weather got warmer, and permits had still not been issued, tables were put in the campo anyway, with the hope that permits would soon be in hand.  In the meantime, we had the noise issues, and the city hall crack down. First there was a rash of fines being issued. Police were in Campo Santa Margherita every single day with tape measures in hand. We laughed when we saw them, but for the new cafe and bar owners, this was no laughing matter.

Next thing we know, the city has conducted a sting operation of sorts. They swooped down on Campo Santa Margherita and confiscated the tables of the establishments who were in violation of having tables without permits. Lawyers have been hired, there have been several meetings with city hall, and still no resolution. Here we are, at the end of September with no resolution, still.  And in the meantime, these new shop owners are suffering with reduced revenue because they have no tables outside, not to mention big lawyer bills.

At my favorite new place, Mood, they are really feeling the pinch.  Their business is way off, and they fear they may have to close soon.  I find this to be a horrible shame, as these young men are hard working, industrious Italians, trying to make a go of their business. If they go under, I know what will open up in their location within a week- another souvenir shop selling imported junk.

I certainly have gone from outsider to local during my time here, haven't I?


Rob C said...

Karen, this is dreadful news!

It's a pity that no-one can get all the cafes together to protest en-masse, but that's not the Italian way is it?

Let's hope that the students will realise just what damage they are doing to the local economy, after all if all the cafe's close they'll have nowhere to go either. Ad the last thing Venice needs is more Chinese owned and run souvenir/luggage shops, we counted over 50 last Christmas, and I bet there's more opened since.

Hope you're much more flexible now.



familienurlaub mallorca said...

I just can't stop reading this. It's so cool, so full of information that I just didn't know.

Andrew said...

I feel for the residents of the campo. The noise must be unbearable. However,as we know, Venice is not a late night city and Santa Margherita is one of the few places to get a nightcap. Having been to La Fenice some years ago we found that here was the only place we could get something to eat post show. I don't know what the answer is. The table issue just seems to be mean-spirited.

Dianne said...

I agree that the table issue appears to be mean spirited. Makes me think that those with tables might be trying to hamper the competition by not protesting en masse. That being said, I needed to pass through the campo several times this September coming from the direction of the Pantalon bridge. It was like trying to get through a sardine can. Most of the students seem to congregate along that narrow corridor that is between the bridge and where the campo opens up a bit further on. I don't recall this from other years but then I might not have come that way before. Too bad that the students don't appear to "get it"! For the sake of the newer cafes I hope that a solution is found.