The beer garden at the entrance to Riegrovy sady in Prague 2 is set to reopen as soon as coronavirus restrictions allow, and benches are already in place in the fenced-off area. The popular Vinohrady hangout did not open for the 2019 season due to the expiration of the former operator’s lease. The Prague 2 district, however, says that permission has not been granted.
The new operators are already selling Plzeňský Prazdroj beer and snacks from a green tent in front of the fence. If government regulations don’t change, the beer garden itself should reopen May 11.
The former operators of the beer garden, Park Café, are not involved with operating the new beer garden. Who the operators are remains a bit of a mystery, but Prague 2 has been in contact with the owner of the property regarding new beer stands.
Unlike the rest of the park, the beer garden area and the closed restaurant next to it are private property, owned by the Austrian company ZET-Invest. The buildings are protected cultural landmarks. The Prague 2 district has tried to buy the land back, but negotiations have made no progress.
“Recently, the owner asked the Building Authority for permission for temporary structures with refreshments in front of the podium. As far as we know, consent from conservationists has not been documented. So far, nothing can be allowed,” Prague 2 spokeswoman Andrea Zoulová told daily Pražský deník.
Limited operations in the former beer garden began in the middle of March, when a French crepe stand opened, selling crepes and coffee from a food truck. That remained in operation throughout the coronavirus restrictions, up until when the benches for the beer garden were put in place.
The crepe stand operators did put up signs telling people not to gather in crowds and to observe the government restrictions. Restaurants were allowed to sell take-away food and beverages, but picnics and similar gatherings in parks were not supposed to take place due to social distancing and the obligation to wear a face covering in public.
The former operator Park Café had a 20-year lease on the beer garden, but that expired in early 2019, and the operator was obliged to remove everything and put the garden space, with its large concrete podium, and the adjacent restaurant back to their original conditions.
“Certainly we will be interested in the further fate of this area, and, if necessary, look for ways to solve this situation,” Prague 2 Deputy Mayor Vaclav Vondrášek said in February 2019. “But the owner and new tenant, if any, must know that Riegrovy sady is a protected monument and adapt their business to fit it accordingly.”
ZET-Invest in 2019 had proposed a large redevelopment of the space, but those plans were twice rejected by the district. After that, the owners stopped communicating with the district.
District representatives at the time, though, said that several renovations and improvements would be needed before the space was deemed suitable for public use, as it had been allowed to deteriorate over the years.
What is now Riegrovy sady, named for 19th century Czech patriot František Ladislav Rieger, used to be part of Zahrada Kanálka, a large park and garden that was visited by Wolfgang Mozart and Washington Irving.
The restaurant on the site was originally called Šťastného hostinec. It was rebuilt in the constructionist style 1934–37 and renamed called Šretrova restaurace.
The two-part terrace had 1,200 seats, and the restaurant roof had a viewing terrace looking toward Prague Castle. The stage area of what was later the beer garden, until last year used for screening live sports and movies, was intended as a band stand.
Whatever happens, people in Riegrovy sady who want to have a beer still have to option of going a little further into the park, where a pub called Mlíkárna is a bit hidden. The late 19th century classicist-style building was originally a place to get pastries and milk, but fell into ruin after World War II.
The landmark structure belongs to the Prague 2 district, but was renovated in 2009 by a private investor and reopened as a pub and cafe with a grill. The roof was meant as a viewing platform, but the view is now blocked by trees.