Following an article by the L’Essentiel newspaper on the reportedly stifling regulations and huge rates charged to cafés and restaurants for operating terraces in the capital, Delano took a look at outdoor seating areas, with the help of Sebastiaan Van der Weerden. He’s the owner of six popular cafés and pubs in the grand duchy.
Last week, L’essentiel said “it wasn’t simple” for restaurant and café owners to run their terraces in the capital. According to Sebastiaan Van der Weerden, the article did not reflect the views of all owners: “There is no need to point the finger at the city, they do what they can. They always have an open ear,” Van der Weerden told Delano in an interview on 12 April.
Since the anti-smoking law in 2014, terraces have become more important than ever for publicans in all seasons. But the figures are substantial when warm weather arrives. Turnover can double compared to January, said Van der Weerden, who owns or co-owns Konrad, Go Ten, The Tube, Bellamy, Octans and The Rooftop.
So, what does it really take to open a terrace in Luxembourg? A simple application (PDF) for authorisation to establish a terrace, automatically renewed every year if approved, and of course, a fee. While L’essentiel cited a fee of almost €4,000 per year for 80 square metres, the reality is not the same for all owners, as the rent depends on the location and surface of the terrace. Terraces in pedestrian areas and other specially defined areas cost €20 per square metre, according to Horesca, the hospitality industry trade association. The fee is doubled in certain top areas, such as the place d’Armes, but made profitable during the high season from April to October.
“I only speak for my bars”, but “compared to other European locations, the rent is not too expensive.” But that, Van der Weerden said in jest, “is not a reason to raise prices [for restaurant and bar owners]”.
Managers face a long list of regulations on how to run outdoor seating areas. This includes terrace furnishings needing to be movable, having nor more than half of the space as a smoking area, the terrace not being wider than the restaurant’s facade, following a defined colour code and not having advertisements.
In the L’essential article, the manager of the Lorraine brasserie complained that: “For safety reasons, we can no longer have gas bottles on the terrace, nor run out electricity to it.”
However, Van der Weerden claimed that, “they are stricter on paper than in reality. They are tolerant, but we should always consider security measures, including access for firefighters.”
Van der Weerden did agree with another point in the newspaper article: more public events are needed.
He added that mobility remains tricky. The city needs more parking space and the slow renovation of the parking below place Guillaume is only making things worse. Taxis are also too costly in the evening and the old town is difficult to access. “The City of Luxembourg should close the city centre to traffic at night, so there are more pedestrian areas. After all, it is a protected Unesco site,” he argued.
He also reckoned that terraces lack flowers and better décor since the city centre is built on rocky land.
Nevertheless, Van der Weerden was rather positive about the way the city works with restaurant and café owners, and would like this level of cooperation to persist. “I hope they keep their pragmatism in relation to terraces and understand that Luxembourg needs life on the streets. For now, the approach of the city is good.” He added: “We are all in the same boat because we want a city that ‘lives’ and for that, we need support from the authorities and this is the case for now.”
Terraces in Luxembourg City are open until October.
Click here for a list of the best terraces published by our sister site Explorator.