The narrow backstreets of Istanbul's historic Beyoglu district have long been the haunt of revelers, drawn to the area by its profusion of bars, cafes and restaurants. In summer, these establishments move the fun outdoors, setting up tables that often end up spilling into the street. But now it appears that Beyoglu authorities have decided to rein in the outdoor fun. From Hurriyet:
Members of the municipal patrol acted extremely rudely and abused restaurant owners and customers as they removed outdoor tables and chairs over the weekend in Beyoğlu’s Cihangir and Galata neighborhoods, according to restaurant operators.
Officers appeared without an official warning in prominent places throughout Cihangir, removing tables by force while customers were still sitting there and eating, Gökçe Bedo, the owner of a tavern told the Hürriyet Daily News.
“More than 20 officers suddenly gathered here and hit one of the customers who refused to stand up as she did not understand the reason for the operation,” said Bedo, adding that she was considering filing a complaint against the officers.
The owners have blamed the municipality for the attitude of the officers who carried out the operation; many have also added that they had not violated the rule that bans chairs and tables in front of their facilities.
Last Tuesday, the owners of cafes and restaurants in Galata neighborhood received a notice from the municipal patrol, saying tables and chairs outside restaurants and cafes should be removed.
Istanbul Eats, meanwhile, went down to Beyoglu's hopping Asmalimescit district (pictured above), usually filled with people drinking and smoking outdoors by early afternoon, only to find it eerily silent:
Late afternoon on Sofyali Sokak, the restaurant-crowded street in Beyoglu’s Asmalimescit district, is usually happy hour – two for one tequila shots, raki glasses clinking, half-liters of Efes hoisted. But today, in the aftermath of a Beyoglu-wide crackdown on outside seating that left the street bare of a single place to sit outside outside, the scene was palpably unhappy. (The “before and after” photo above is of Sofyali Sok.)
Since the indoor smoking ban went into effect, outdoor seating has become even more prized on this street, a hot destination for revelry. While most businesses held permits for their outdoor seating area, violations of the space were clearly rampant. Over the past year, tables seemed to multiply like mushrooms overnight until finally, pedestrians were forced to pass in a single file line between the gauntlet of tables filled with diners, drinkers and smokers.
But this afternoon, police and municipal inspectors swept through, confiscating outdoor furniture and ordering the demolition of decks built outside of restaurants. A pile of rubble, previously a deck, stood just downhill from the stylish House Café, while across the street waiters worked frantically with crowbars to remove a particularly permanent looking structure.