Tensions are rising between those who live in downtown Budapest’s District VII and those who make their living at its bars and nightclubs, as members of both groups hosted back-to-back demonstrations this week to express their goals for the future of this popular urban area. While the local residents blame owners of local nightspots for encouraging the ever-increasing noise and pollution that party people create here, the businesses and people who work there insist that the community can come together to create a peaceful compromise.
Every night, intoxicated crowds flood the streets of Budapest’s District VII in search of the wildest parties with loud music, strong alcohol, and opening hours stretching until the early morning. While the “party district” surely became a major Budapest attraction in recent years, the increasing number of nightspots here has made living conditions more unpleasant, much to the dismay of the neighborhood’s residents. Especially since noise restrictions in the area ceased to exist in 2013, the people who live in this district must endure the loud crowds late into every night, and every morning they have to maneuver around vomit, pee, and litter left behind by the partygoers during the night before. At the same time, employees of the neighborhood nightspots fear losing their jobs if the businesses are curtailed by additional regulations.
Recently, the disgruntled District VII residents formed a non-governmental organization called Élhető Erzsébetváros, and took steps to make their demands clear. OnWednesday, August 30th, they held their second demonstration to protest the pubs’ extended opening hours, the lack of proper cleaning services, and the excessive noise they have to endure every night. The mayor of District VII, Zsolt Vattamány, seems to support some of their arguments, promising to put forward a comprehensive draft at a special meeting of the body of representatives, to be held in September. The draft includes increasing local cleanup operations and boosting the police presence, as well as establishing a new regulation that prohibits renting out any property or business premises owned by the local government for nightlife-related businesses. However, the mayor did not mention curtailing the bars’ opening hours in the district, which still seems to be the most important issue among local residents who desperately want a good night’s sleep.
Before the residents’ demonstration, onTuesday, August 29th, the owners and employees of the party district’s pubs also took to the streets and submitted a package of proposals to the local government, defending the neighborhood’s economic and touristic benefits, as well as expressing sympathy towards the opposing group. Their proposals include regular cleaning of the streets at 5am, providing larger and sturdier waste bins, financing and operating a rapid-reaction cleaning unit, providing free restroom usage even for non-paying guests to avoid urine splashing on the streets, employing at least one security guard at each business to regulate guests’ behavior on the street after midnight, training and employing “night mediators” and extra security personnel at focal points in the downtown area, and introducing new soundproofing solutions and sound-monitoring systems.
Implementing these ideas might not be entirely unrealistic, and some remain skeptical that the two groups can coexist at all, offering extreme solutions such as moving the entire party district outside the historic city center, or disciplining misbehaving tourists with heavy fines. Let’s hope that by finding common ground to settle their disagreements, these two groups will end up creating an improved, more livable District VII for all.