October 5th, 2012

United Nations Latest Weapon in Ongoing War over Budapest Nightlife

Sadly, it looks like we can’t go a week without a story involving Budapest pubs getting closed down due to some obscure government regulation. And not only that, we can’t go a week without a story involving both Budapest pubs getting closed down due to some obscure government regulation and Antal Rogán, the head of the ruling party’s parliamentary faction, District V mayor, and all-around poster boy for everything twisted, sick and sad about big-power Hungarian politics.

Here’s the scoop:

On Monday, Parliament passed an amendment co-sponsored by Rogán putting new regulations on bars operating near UNESCO World Heritage locations.

Rogán said the measure is specifically aimed at nightclubs – especially those with “erotic” entertainment on offer – rather than restaurants and other places of entertainment, adding that at most about 50-100 places would be affected.

Under the new regulations, the police are mandated to review the permits of such bars every year, with an eye towards the effect such nightspots may have on safety in the neighborhood. It also gives the police the ability to revoke such permits at any time, based on reports filed by local residents.

Now, as for what constitutes “UNESCO locations,” this is where things get really interesting. According to the official UNESCO website, their designation reads as “Budapest, including the Banks of the Danube, the Buda Castle Quarter and Andrássy Avenue,” and it specifically mentions the Roman ruins of Aquincum, which is quite far from the Buda Castle, the Danube and Andrássy út.

In other words, the new rule gives the authorities broad new powers to close any nightclub or bar at any time, based on reports from local residents, more or less anywhere in the city.

While it’s hard to argue that noisy night clubs and skanky strip joints may detract from the city’s beauty and security, one has to wonder if there is something more at play here.

Given the increasingly brutish cast of Hungarian politics – and the always-sinister nature of the nightlife industry – we now have to tread a little lightly. So let’s just say that a little bird once chirped that some near the top of the current government may have more than a passing interest in the ongoing shakeup in the local nightlife scene underscored by the the recent takedown of Budapest nightlife kingpin László Vizoviczki, who presided over the concentration of large (and apparently very profitable) clubs on Hajógyári sziget – an area well outside of the area this new regulation seems aimed at.

We’d say more, except, well, we’re not very good swimmers.

 
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