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Unlawful Rhodes Beach Operation With Water Sunbeds Will Be Shut

RHODES, Greece – A beach bar operating unlawfully on a Rhodes beach that in 2023 drew attention for putting rented sunbeds and umbrellas on metal platforms in the water has done it again, and this time authorities say it will be closed.

It wasn’t said if that would be temporary despite the repeat violation and embarrassment to local officials who didn’t react, nor didn’t know it was set up unlawfully on an archaeological site, until getting complaints from a new app.

Through MyCoast on their cell phones, callers can report violations of beaches being overly occupied by businesses going beyond a 50 percent government lease limit, or without licenses, which has resulted in more than 1,900 complaints so far.

Greece’s Constitution mandates that all beaches remain accessible and free, yet successive governments have leased many of them, on prime spots to businesses, resulting in some establishments taking over most or even all of the beaches.

Following protests on islands in 2023 over beach takeovers, the New Democracy government pledged to crack down on violators, utilizing tools such as the app and also drones for surveillance.

The municipal authority on Rhodes ordered the shutdown of the bar in the Santa Marina area by June 20 after inspections found a host of  zoning violations, including being unlawfully set up on an archaeological site.

It wasn’t said why it wasn’t closed immediately nor if the sunbeds would be removed or if it would be allowed to operate unlawfully again. Inspectors found 19 sunbeds in the water, as in 2023, when a photo of a waiter carrying drinks through water up to his waist revealed the first violations.

As the beach business was in an archaeological site local authorities said they wouldn’t provide a license but the owner, who wasn’t named, ignored it and expanded the business, no report how much the fines were in 2023.

“Approval was never granted nor would it be possible to grant it for the installation and operation of the business, considering the archaeological legislation, since it has proceeded to illegally occupy the shared seafront and beach area,” a statement from the municipality said without adding why they allowed it to continue.

PUBLIC BEACHES FOR RENT

The owner was issued a permit only to operate a food truck on the beach in 2014 and 2015 and then took it over without anyone apparently noticing nor was it said if he had paid for a lease as is required – in violation of the Greek Constitution.

A demolition order was issued in 2016 and another to seal the business in 2017 but nothing happened and it’s been allowed to keep operating unlawfully, no report whether the municipality was getting any revenues or if taxes were being paid.

The Finance Ministry said the business would be fined but didn’t say how much or if state authorities would intervene after Mitsotakis promised to clamp down on unlawful beach businesses shutting off the public from access.

At the same time though he is trying to attract more foreign investors, including for luxury resorts occupying public beaches and he attended the inauguration of one on the so-called Athens Riviera, that business catering to the rich.

Businesses operating on beaches charge up to hundreds of dollars a day for the rental of umbrellas and sunbeds and there have been complaints they try to keep out people who won’t pay and want to use the beaches being taken over.

Despite the influx of complaints, the government has deferred action, with no apparent plans for enforcement until a review of applications for additional concessions is completed, now extended to June 28.

This delay will significantly impact the summer season, and it remains unclear whether violators will face fines or closures, or if enforcement will be postponed until 2025, even as Greece anticipates another record-breaking year for tourism.

Most complaints originate from violations reported in popular destinations such as the Cyclades islands, the Dodecanese chain, and the Halkidiki peninsula, home to many of the country’s finest beaches, increasingly dominated by businesses.

The government initially received requests from 959 businesses seeking to exploit beaches for profit, and this number is expected to surpass 1,200, further limiting public access to beaches with state approval.

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