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Drinking outdoors in Brussels: the beginning of the end?
Châtelain ban puts Brussels outdoor parties on the endangered list
Drinking a glass of wine – or two, or three – after a long day of work is something that many Brussels expats hold dear to their heart. That’s why it comes as no surprise that outdoor happy hour events proposed in Brussels grow very quickly in popularity, going often into the wee hours of the night. However, recent action by the mayor of Ixelles, has Brussels residents worried that their love affair with mid-week outdoor partying has come to all too soon to an end.
Last Wednesday April 23rd, the mayor of Ixelles Willy Decourty (PS) announced an immediate ban on drinking outdoors in Place Châtelain – a major scene in outdoor partying in Brussels up to this point – and posted notices throughout the square stating that drinking would be forbidden between 5pm on Wednesdays and 7am on Thursdays. Since the announcement, police have only given out warnings about the new measure (which most people ignored), with the plan of applying the law with fines as of May. That makes this May 8th thus the first Wednesday the law is officially in effect, and all eyes are set on Châtelain to see what happens. At stake: a €110 fine to anyone caught with an alcoholic beverage in the street.
A heated debate
For the residents living around Chatelain, the regulation comes with open arms; “ When it’s nice out, there’s so much noise in the street that we don't get a wink of sleep before 3 in the morning. And then only to be woken up throughout the night by lingering partyers,” complains one Ixelles resident.
“Of course there is noise, but are we or are we not living in the city? You should never expect countryside living at Châtelain,” retorts an older resident interviewed last Wednesday by TVBrussel. Another TVBrussel interviewee adds, “It’s unfortunate news: Châtelain was the weekly meet up for many of us, and while I understand that the commune wants to take measures to control noise for the local residents, this is a little overboard,”
For Mayor Decourty however, it’s not just about noise but road safety: “police currently use road blocks to slow down and stop traffic circulating in the area, but we’re concerned that an aggressive or incautious driver will hit someone all the same or surge into the crowd of drinkers.”
The law says that alcohol drinking will still be permitted in Châtelain’s cafés and respective terraces, but only until 23:00. Also, people are still allowed to enjoy Châtelain’s evening market and drink stands, but will not be allowed to hang around after the market closes.
Place du Luxembourg: the next target?
The question on many people’s minds now is: what does this means for other outdoor party traditions in Brussels? Many expats fear the next victim will be Place du Luxembourg (Plux), where traditionally outdoor happy hours go long into Thursday night.
The answer, according to a Le Soir report back in 2011, seems to be: the chances are slim. Place du Luxembourg, while just as popular, noisy and messy, is not situated in as residential an area as Châtelain. Instead, Plux (as the locals call it) is surrounded mostly by EU institution offices, inciting much less noise complaints from local residents than with Châtelain’s market. As for the mess, bar owners are not complaining: Thursday nights tend to be "jackpot" in terms of their monthly revenues.
Weekly aperitif alternatives in Brussels:
While it’s sad to see Châtelain’s Wednesday night party on the brink of extinction, rest assured that there are many other great activities going on during the week in Brussels (including Wednesday).
Here’s a small list:
In 80’s we Trust: Get down 80s style every Wednesday at Madame Moustache on Place St Catherine.
Place Van Meenen Evening Market (St Gilles): While evening drinks on the first day back to work after a long weekend can be sometimes be an effort, give yourself that extra needed nudge and head to this evening market in front of St Gilles' beautiful city hall building. Market closes at 19:00 but food and alcohol stands stay open basically until they run out of stock (which happens - surprisely yet intentionally - quite early, around 21:00).
Let’s Play and Drink Together: Every Tuesday come play board games and have drinks at Bar Du Matin in Forest (Metro stop Albert).
Photomatic Aperitif: Every Wednesday at Bar Du Matin photo expos, short films and videos are projected while you sip on a glass of wine.
Evening Market St Gilles Esplanade: Parvis de St. Gilles’ market stays open until 19:00 every Thursday. After grabbing a bite to eat you can head to one of the Esplanade’s many bars/terraces.