Vienna Euro-free zones can’t quite shake the football habit

June 12th, 2008 - 9:57 am ICT by IANS  

By Albert Otti
Vienna, June 12 (DPA) The football-weary in Vienna can choose between over 50 “Euro-free zones” in restaurants, bars and cafes, but wherever they might go, football has a way of creeping in through the back door. These days, walking through Vienna means watching the Euro championships. Television screens have been put up everywhere, from elegant cafes in the centre to icecream parlours. Even the sausage stand next to the Vienna State Opera has become a public viewing site, thanks to a small TV set on the counter.

But in the Euro-free Arcotel Wimberger hotel, things are different: “Out of respect for our guests, we kindly ask you not to talk about the European Soccer Championship in this area,” signs in the lobby inform guests.

There are no TV screens in the hotel’s public areas, and the hotel has made a decision not to house groups of guests related to UEFA or sponsors.

“It represents a place of peace in hectic Vienna,” hotel spokeswoman Birgit Raderer told DPA.

The hotel says it is well-booked, but Tuesday night, the only guest at the bar was Gisela Beinruecker, an elegant white-haired lady from Vienna. She said she was glad this Euro-free zone provided her with a place to relax. “Otherwise I wouldn’t be here,” she said, nursing a glass of sparkling wine.

She felt constrained by the fact that parts of the city center have been turned into the fan zone. “That’s going too far,” Beinruecker said.

But even the Arcotel group, the owners of the hotel, cannot make do without the Euro. One of their Vienna hotels has been designated as the group’s Euro hotel, providing rooms to UEFA officials and others working at the Euro 2008.

The owner of a small outdoor grill and beer garden along the Danube canal has taken this sort of group-specific marketing to an even higher level.

While most guests sit in front of a flat screen watching football, four tables remain Euro-free. “This is the girls’ station”, owner Renate Rosner explained. She had decided to reserve an area for her friends, many of them married to police officers or firemen who are on almost constant duty during the championships.

But it would not make business sense not to show any games, she said. It would be impossible with no Euro at all,” Rosner said.

Inside the almost-empty Lux, another Euro-free location, a waiter said the concept proved to be a “flop”.

Only the outdoor area had some full tables, with a good view of a TV screen put up by the pub next door.

Guests said they didn’t care whether the restaurant was a Euro-free zone or not. “You can’t escape it anyway, a young woman named Niki said.

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