A crackdown on Greek nightclubs, bars and restaurants since July 8, which has made it illegal to stand, dance or mingle, is part of the Greek government’s effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
But that doesn’t mean the party is over — it’s just gone underground, off the government’s radar — as the party migrates to private villas that are accessed by paid invitation only.
Dancing or any kind of movement by customers in a nightclub, bar or restaurant has been severely restricted by the Greek government. Customers are now required to remain seated at all catering venues. They are completely prohibited from standing, mingling or dancing together.
Greece’s Mykonos Catering Owners Condemn Moves
But nightclub, restaurant and bar owners on the Greek island of Mykonos are simply not having it. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis was warned in a scathing letter issued by the Association of Mykonos Town Businesses and Professionals (AMTBP) that they would not be the government’s scapegoat for the rise in coronavirus cases.
The letter from the association, openly points a finger at the private parties that take place nightly at villas across the island. Some of these parties are organized by private individuals and others by beach clubs who want their usual seaside parties to be able to continue to dawn.
If you are on private property, even if you are with one thousand strangers in a villa overlooking the Aegean, which you paid a $500 entry fee to walk in to, you will have no issues mingling, dancing and merry making unmasked and uninterrupted.
Wednesday night the Deputy Minister of Citizen’s Protection, Nikos Chardalias, announced that because of the rampant spread of the Delta variant of coronavirus evidenced in testing statistics, new safeguards would be put in place for the hospitality industry.
As of Thursday, July 8, patrons at clubs, restaurants and bars across the nation are no longer allowed to be on the premises of the venue standing or dancing. Patrons are restricted to their seats and not allowed to either circulate inside the venue or dance.
The AMTBP wants the government to be as strict in enforcing measures, including issuing fines and making arrests, with the private party venues as they are with officially licensed establishments.
Hefty Fines, Closures Loom for Non-compliant Nightclubs
Currently the rules are three strikes and you are out. For a first violation, a Greek nightclub is issued a fine of almost $12,000 and will immediately close for seven days. The second infraction is another $12,000 fine and closure for 15 days, effective immediately. The third violation will close the venue for good, with both a hefty fine and their license to operate revoked.
Since early May, the Greek government has been courting the world, inviting folks to come to Greece to vacation, in an effort to revitalize the economy because a huge percentage of its income is generated from the tourism sector.
One of the selling points of Greece as a destination, is a culture of nightlife, music and dance. And particularly for destinations renowned for their 24/7 party vibe, like Mykonos, the restriction imposed on movement within a nightclub venue pretty much closes any officially licensed establishment offering mingling, music and dancing.
Bar, restaurant and nightclub owners in Greece have had a fierce reaction to the safety measures because most venues will have to close if customers cannot mingle or dance, while illegal villa venues continue to operate with impunity.
The police are well aware of the villa venue parties but cannot stage an invasion, arrest anyone or issue fines, since the law protects the “asylum of a private home” allowing the occupants to do as they like.
Mykonos Association Recommends Greece Follow Ibiza Law Model
Unless there is an immediate change in the law in Greece, the party will go on — uninterrupted and underground — while compliant tax paying business-nightclubs, restaurants and bars, which actually generate income and support the Greek state will be forced to close.
Professionals in catering in Mykonos insist that the sanctions for failing to comply with established safety regulations aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19 be applied to public and private venues.
Beyond the fact that the villa venues are tax cheats and not running any of the cash exchanges through government coffers, as bar, restaurant and nightclub owners are obliged to do, they are a danger to public safety as well because of the threat to easily spread the coronavirus.
The week that passed evidenced one such “Corona Party” on the island of Ios. The infection of more than 70 individuals was traced back to just that one private event. And those 70 infected, undetected, could have continued to spread Covid-19 exponentially.
A private home raid requires a court order on probable cause — hence, the organizers of the “private” villa parties have free license to do as they like without fear of arrest, penalty, fine or being shut down.
The police can literally stand on the perimeter of the property, watching one thousand people coming into close contact, mingling and dancing unmasked, and they are powerless to stop anyone, unless they have a court order to enter the property.
The villa venue for private parties, offering a free-for-all for paid invitees, has mushroomed in recent years and now it threatens to permanently shut down legitimate businesses such as bars, restaurants and clubbing venues that have existed on the island for decades.
With the measures requiring seated customers only in licensed bars, restaurants and nightclubs, the private villa venue offers young and old, freedom to let off some steam, unmasked, drinking, drugging and dancing through the night, without the intervention of authorities.
The private parties are the perfect storm to super-spread the coronavirus. With no social distancing, no masks, and shouting over loud music, resulting in close contact thanks to alcohol or other substances that abolish caution and inhibitions, hundreds of revelers are sure to infect one another.
Some of the villa venue private parties are organized by individuals who rent the villa and carry out the promotion either by personally approaching potential “friends” or with private group messages.
Ibiza Set Trend for Private Villa Party Scene
The villa venue phenomenon began in Ibiza a few summer seasons back, even prior to the pandemic, but had the opportunity to flourish because of it. Dubbed “Covid parties” the private villa venue bridged the gap left by the government’s ban on the reopening of the islands’ popular super clubs.
To avoid the restrictions imposed within public entertainment venues such as bars and restaurants, an opportunity to party freely, without government regulation, became the norm as revelers left the bars and restaurants and headed for the villas or skipped the bars and restaurants altogether.
Officials in the Balearic Islands took tough action following evidence of a strong link with coronavirus outbreaks in 2020.
The authorities in Ibiza squelched the “Corona Parties” at private villas last summer by imposing $600,000 fines to organizers and property owners.
And so far, this year, thanks to the hefty fines, legal businesses such as nightclubs, bars and restaurants with music are no longer threatened by these underground events. Using Ibiza as evidence, the association is fighting for the survival of Greek nightclubs, bars and restaurants.
The AMTBP issued the letter below to the Greek government, followed by an announcement to patrons.
The letter condemns the measure as it cites legal, licensed venues have followed government directives to prepare to open with a separation for vaccinated and non-vaccinated customers, in the indoor spaces of Greek nightclubs, bars and restaurants — at considerable expense and energy.
The announcement, targeted at customers but mocking the government, informs patrons they will function in the same manner that the private villa parties operate, with a text message with the coordinates of the venue, etc.
Last Friday AMTBP President Hercules Zissimopoulos had an on-air discussion with Stelios Petsas, Deputy Minister of the Interior. Petsas agreed that Zissimopoulos is correct, saying that anyone who has been to Matogianni Street in Mykonos understands that this situation cannot be controlled.
Petsas said that the government should reconsider these measures for those sitting in the restaurant, emphasizing that the vaccinated should take back some part of normal life, such as entertainment, which can also act as an incentive for the vaccinated and entrepreneurs to operate their establishments appropriately.
Current statistics show that a staggering 82 percent of individuals ages 18 to 25 are still not vaccinated — and are currently the main transmitters of coronavirus infections.
As the summer season pushes into its peak period, the week ahead will chart the course for the survival or permanent closure of Greek nightclubs, bars and restaurants across the country.
Letter To PM From AMTBP Condemning Measures
The letter AMTBP sent to the Prime Minister concerning the new safety measures and how it affects Greek nightclubs, bars and restaurants is as follows:
“With great surprise and indignation we were informed of the announcements of the Deputy Minister of Civil Protection for the operation of the restaurant, which ultimately target our companies as responsible for the increase of coronavirus cases in the country.
“It is at least unthinkable for a government – supposedly business-friendly – to decide to impose exorbitant fines and penalties instead of finding solutions to problems because a customer will be standing at their table – committing the heinous “crime” of dancing while listening to music.
“We fail to realize that it is possible for a democratic government that respects the institution of justice to decide that it can close stores with the only evidence, a video posted on social media that is supposed to portray standing customers.
“We fail to realize that you do not have the basic ability to realize that the more you restrict and cripple legal entertainment with inappropriate and irrational measures, the more illegal parties will erupt in villas, despite our repeated complaints, you are still protecting them and allowing the transmission of the virus.
“We fail to realize that you asked us to be vaccinated at a higher rate than any other part of Greece and now you are protecting the unvaccinated by punishing us and putting us in the same category dominated by vaccine deniers.
“A few days ago you announced your plan for pure and mixed spaces and we hired staff and we are preparing to open, each of us, making our own choices, according to your regulations. And now instead of improving your design in the new conditions, you are overturning everything.
“You overturn the business plan and tourism planning by ignoring the solutions that exist or that can be developed.
“In one stroke you are deleting tourism and businesses in Mykonos.
“Mr. Prime Minister, Ministers,
“WE ARE READY AND DETERMINED TO REACT IN WAYS THAT ARE UNPRECIDENTED.
“The measures you announced, lead us, without a plan, to certain catastrophe, in the middle of the tourist season, which was just beginning to show signs of improvement.
“These measures cut off our legs and together with us they are undermining the future of the entire economy for the island for the Mykonos brand, if not for all Greece.
“THE WATCHED THIS PLAYOUT LAST YEAR AND WE WERE COOPERATIVE AND CONFORMED TO ALL REGULATION.
“INSTEAD OF RESPECTING THE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF TOURISTS THAT WE WERE ABLE TO WELCOME, THE TENS OF THOUSANDS OF EMPLOYEES IN THE INDUSTRY AS WELL AS ALL OF US ARE TRYING TO FUNCTION IN AN EXTREMELY RISKY ENVIRONMENT, YOU INVOKE MEASURES THAT INSULT US, UNFORTUNATELY NOT ONLY WITH THE VIRUS … “
Response Posted By AMTBP
The ironic response from AMTBP followed concerning the crackdown on Greek nightclubs:
“We are pleased to inform all of you, our friends and visitors that the events planned for our businesses, will have a change of venue that are legally allowed to be held, such as VILLAS and BOATS.
“Detailed instructions for the place and date of all these parties will be announced by each company.
“You can attend these parties without tests, to remain standing, to dance as before and you will receive a 30% discount on the price of admission as no receipts will be issued and the employees will not be covered by their government insurance.
“PS1: The above announcement is valid for five days and we will return when we see the new Government Gazette. The Greek Police will secure the party’s perimeter.
“PS2: We issue this announcement following videos that were recently released demonstrating the “wonderful” and “unobstructed” party that was organized yesterday on our island.”