Limassol Municipality recently imposed restrictions on the volume of the music played by bars at Saripolou Square, following frequent complaints about the noise by town centre residents. Although some bar owners are displeased with the development, others view it as a necessary, albeit late-to-arrive effort at controlling the situation and attracting a more mature crowd to the historic square.
“Things were a bit out of control previously, as each bar seemed to be competing with each other on who would play the music louder. Music was coming from everywhere and you couldn’t really distinguish between sounds. This discouraged the more sophisticated people from coming, as they like being able to talk, while enjoying their wine or cocktail. This is the type of customer that our bar caters to,” Marianna Philippidou, owner of (in)theory bar told The Cyprus Weekly.
The bar owners had previously reached an agreement with police, whereby they would operate until 1am on weekdays and 2am on weekends. This agreement, however, had been systematically breached by some, leading to numerous complaints by the residents of the area who were unable to sleep at night. As a result, the Municipality resorted to essentially banning loud music and setting a strict limit on the number of tables allowed to be placed outside.
However, unresolved issues remain, including the lack of parking places in the area and the limited disabled access, aggravated by the policy of placing lamp posts on pavements to prevent illegal parking. Philippidou blames the lack of planning for the sometimes chaotic situation. “A year and a half ago there were no more than five bars at the square. At that point, the Municipality should have set a limit on the number and type of establishments that could operate there. Instead, they accepted all applications that were filed, which caused the current state of affairs.”
“It is good to have control. Without rules there’s chaos. However, the Municipality was late in taking decisions and in implementing them. As a result, a bad image of the bars at the square was created, but some of us were not responsible for this,” she added.
Although most establishments at Saripolou have been granted a town planning licence by the Municipality, there is considerable delay in reviewing applications for the licence to operate, serve alcohol, and play music. This places them in a limbo situation in the eyes of the law, and vulnerable to fines.
“We have filed our application two years ago and are still waiting. I feel that there is no solid support from the Municipality. The fines are endless. On one visit alone, we get three fines: for the music, for the alcohol, and for operating. It comes to about €1,000 each time, and we have received around 20 such fines. The same applies to most other bars here.”
Faced with uncertainty and the high cost of fines, some bar owners are questioning the logic of a state of affairs that may lead some to closure. “Most of us here are young entrepreneurs who employ young Cypriot people. If we go under, we’ll be unemployed and so will these people who work for us,” said Philippidou.