The Slovenia Times

Suits looming as Covid rules dampen mood at Christmas markets


Ljubljana/Koper/Maribor - The government ban on outdoor food and drink stalls has dampened down the festive mood at Christmas markets across Slovenia as inspectors clamped down on the vendors trying to get around the restrictions. Dismayed at what they see as unfair and unlawful rules, hospitality providers are now mounting class action to claim damages.

The government initially detailed rules for Christmas markets on 26 November when those had already opened in some cities, setting out that they should be fenced off to make sure only Covid pass-carrying visitors are allowed inside the railings.

However, only a week later, prompted by its Covid-19 advisors, the government banned the serving of food and drinks at open-air stalls to prevent socialising around the cup of mulled wine that is very popular in the country this time of year.

With the roasted chestnuts exempted from the ban, the new government regulation led to a rather comical exchange between the chief Covid adviser and the Ljubljana mayor over what makes chestnuts less of a Covid risk.

The Ljubljana authorities then appeared to have found a loophole in arguing that the ban only concerned fair-like activity rather than open-air market stalls and reopened food and drink markets by the Ljubljana central market last Wednesday.

In some other cities, vendors moved their stalls closer to their hospitality establishments, which can serve their seated guests outdoors, and in Koper and Maribor only seated guests got served from stalls.

However, inspectors moved fast and first sealed stalls in Ljubljana on Thursday and then closed down those in Koper's Tito Square as well.

Insisting that the open-air market activity has not been banned, the utility operating Ljubljana markets and the affected hospitality providers will seek justice in court in cooperation with Nataša Pirc Musar, a prominent lawyer.

Similarly upset are the vendors in Koper, who have acquired a legal opinion saying that the closure was unlawful and illegitimate and are thus preparing to bring a joint damages suit, their representative Andrej Krmac has announced.

A further issue is that while Christmas markets are no longer appealing to visitors, beer and restaurant gardens or even the stalls attached to them, such as those along the river Ljubljanica in the capital, are teeming with festive crowds.

In Maribor, seated Covid-pass carrying guests are still served hot drinks from stalls in Leon Štukelj Square, after inspectors visiting the venue last week found everything was by the book.

In Celje, Kranj and Bled, hospitality stalls operating as part Christmas markets have been closed down as the government ban kicked in. However, hospitality and tourism officials are complaining about the impact on business.


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