Beer banned at outdoor cafes in Minsk?

Beer is likely to disappear from outdoor drinking joints, following a proposal from Mikhail Paulau, the Mayor of Minsk.

Selling beers on the streets in the city center is not civilized and should be banned, he says.

When will this proposal be implemented? And, what should be considered as the center of Minsk? Aliaksandr Lukashevich, the chief of trade and services department at the Minsk City Hall, talks to the European Radio for Belarus.

“We will review this issue and make a decision…The measure would target outdoor vending spots in the spring-summer season. At the moment, we have been tasked to study the issue. We are currently busy doing that.”

While the City Hall keeps the population in suspended position, restaurateurs already get worried. They are soon to start putting tables outside to hunt for the season’s cash, but it is not clear what and how they would be allowed to serve to bypassing clients.

“This is terrible”, laments Iryna Marynava, the director of the Biarozka café on Victory Square. “You are sitting in a restaurant and feeling hot. You’d like to order your meal and eat it outside. I must serve you…People have the right to eat where they like. That’s okay not to pour drinks from outside. But, I cannot refuse a client a tot of martini or cognac from inside… It is already time for us to put out tables, so I’d like to know where we stand”.

Anyway, it will not be a big deal for those who are thirsty for beer. The foaming drink is not banned from being sold at groceries. Anyone can simply buy it there and drink on the street.

Not all the breweries will be affected by the measure, but only those who mainly supply to restaurants and cafes. Lidskaje Piva brewery is one of those to be affected. What happens if the outdoor sales are to be banned?

“Naturally, we would have to sweat trying to sell our product through retailers if the opportunity for trading beers at outdoor summer cafes is not there. Besides, not every brewery has its own network of restaurants and bars. This is also a limitation,” said a representative of Lidskaje Piva.

“At least, we have a good substitute – kvas (a non-alcoholic brew) – which is the best in Belarus. I don’t know what Alivaria and Krynica are going to do about it,” says Yury Pancanka, the sales and marketing director at Lidskaje Piva.

This is not the first attack on beer drinking in this country. The Belarusian parliament passed a bill this week, banning the outdoor advertising and any promotion campaigns for the drink.

In another development, Belarus’s Interior Minister Uladzimir Navumau said beer should be banned from drinking in public.

However, Vadzim Siakhovic, the former executive of Bobrov brewery, is quite optimistic about the future of beer drinking in Belarus.

“The same restrictions, even more rigid, have been enacted in Russia. Nevertheless, the Russian market has failed to notice those bans. Beer consumption in Russia is 60 liters per capita against 35 liters here in Belarus.

People will continue drinking the way they drank before. They will look for other joints. It will make the life more difficult to the marketing departments, which will have to look for new ways of promotion campaigns. For example, they will advertise simply Krynica instead of Beer Krynica… Nothing will really change,” he said.

The Minsk City Hall promised to finalize the decision within two weeks. Some cafes have already put their tables outside. While waiting for the verdict, there is still a chance for having a mug in the spring’s sun.

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