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March 1999

Early to bed?

A look into the new laws that threaten the opening hours of beer gardens.

When Bavarians, phlegmatic by nature, prepare for widespread protest and revolt, a vital issue must be at stake. And indeed, the decision of the Bundesverwaltungsgericht (Federal Administration Tribunal) in Berlin to reverse the Bavarian beergarden ordinance has raised a storm of indignation. The special regulation had allowed beergardens adjacent to residential areas to sell their last drinks until 22:30 and close by 23:00. The Berlin judges decided in late January this was not in compliance with federal noise-protection laws and moved the closing times back an hour, which means that the last Maß will be sold at 21:30. The latest decision has sparked new controversy and opened another round of litigation that started four years ago, when a handful of neighbors of the Waldwirtschaft beergarden successfully sued against what they considered noise pollution and had the beergarden closed down at 21:30. Following the unpopular court ruling 20,000 protestors organized the First Beergarden Revolution and won their round in the battle when the Bavarian government signed the – legally shaky – special ordinance. Now that it has been overruled by the Berlin court, beergarden lovers, led by the Society for the Advancement of Beergarden Culture, are planning a second revolution. Demonstrations, signature drives, even a protest convoy of tractors to Berlin are planned. Politicians from all parties have pledged their support, and the Bavarian government has promised to draft a new regulation for longer hours acceptable to the Berlin court. Until the Second Beergarden Revolution succeeds, the protectors of Bavarian culture and tradition might be consoled by the fact that the controversial ruling applies only to a small number of Munich beergardens near residential neighborhoods. The closing time for the vast majority remains for now 1:00.

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