Milan reduces nightlife after campaign to attract tourists

Bars were crowded with drunken revelers spilling out into the congested streets. Takeaway alcohol is consumed by drunk tourists and students. The deafening volume in once-quiet neighborhoods continued well after midnight.

Years ago, when the Milan government embarked on a plan to promote the city as a vibrant destination by building on its reputation as Italy’s hip fashion and design capital, the noise and Cause overcrowding is probably not quite what they had in mind.

Now, after years of complaints and a series of lawsuits, the city has passed an ordinance that severely limits the sale of takeout food and drinks after midnight – and no later than on weekends – in areas “movida” area, a Spanish term used by Italians. adopted to describe outdoor nightlife. It will take effect next week and be in effect until November 11.

Outdoor seating at restaurants and bars will also end at 12:30 on weekdays and an hour later on weekends, so those who want to party longer will have to do so indoors.

Businesses that have benefited from Milan’s success in promoting itself as a growing city are complaining.

One trade association complained that the decree was so strict that Italians would no longer be able to go for late-night strolls with gelato in hand.

Marco Granelli, the Milan council member responsible for public safety, said those concerns were overblown. He says eating gelato quickly won’t be a problem.

The ordinance, he said, is aimed at addressing “conduct that impacts residential areas” and takeout alcoholic beverages, which are seen as the main reason why late-night revelers linger on some streets and square. “It’s clear that ice cream, pizza or brioches don’t create overcrowding,” he said.

Marco Barbieri, general secretary of the Milan branch of the Italian retailers’ association Confcommercio, said his group would fight the decree, which he estimated would affect about 30% of the city’s 10,000 restaurants and bars. city. The new regulations will punish retailers for bad customer behavior, he said.

But people have been complaining about Milan’s nightlife for some time.

“It’s an evil,” said Gabriella Valassina of the Navigli Committee, one of many citizens’ groups formed to tackle the growing numbers of people — and decibel levels — in Milan’s historic neighborhoods. dream”.

She rattled off a list of complaints: noise pollution (peaking at 87 decibels, exceeding the legal limit of 55, according to city ​​limits); the streets were so crowded with revelers that it was difficult to walk or even reach the front door; an exodus of fed-up locals is changing the character of picturesque neighborhoods.

With the new regulations, the city allocated 170,000 euros, or more than $180,000, to help bar owners hire private security services to prevent people from gathering on the streets outside their establishments. And they are working with police unions to amend contracts to allow more officers to work the night shift to enforce the new regulations.

The city may have been motivated to act more aggressively following the decisions of local And national court in Italy sided with residents suing city authorities for failing to control nighttime chaos.

Elena Montafia, spokeswoman for Milano Degrado, a neighborhood association, is one of 34 residents of the Porta Venezia neighborhood suing the city government and seeking damages citing inaction in response to complaints. put their health at risk.

“Life in Milan became really difficult,” she said, adding that only after a decade of pleading with local authorities to respond did she and other residents decide to go the legal route.

However, she and others remain skeptical that the new order will change much and that enforcement will be a problem.

“When you have a lot of people around, there’s no law telling them to go home; Fabrizio Ferretti, manager of Funky, a bar in Navigli, one of the affected neighborhoods, said that was impossible, especially because the crowds often outnumbered the police force. He admitted he was unwelcome to the owners of the apartment above his bar.

The predicament that Milan finds itself in today comes after years of efforts by leaders to expand the city’s image from Italy’s financial and industrial capital to a service-oriented, friendly capital. more tourist-friendly.

Alessandro Balducci, who teaches planning and urban policy at Politecnico di Milano, said a succession of city governments has also encouraged the development of the city’s less central neighborhoods.

One of the sources of inspiration was Fuorisalone, the extensive network of events associated with Milan Design Week, the world’s largest annual global event for design, which has “brought new life to the city’s neighborhoods.” The population is in darkness,” he said. “Even for Milanese, it is a rediscovery of their city.”

The number of universities in the city has also increased – now eight – as have fashion and design programs run by private institutions. Universities in Milan are also increasingly offering courses in English to broaden their international appeal.

Today, Mr. Balducci said, students have replaced many of the workers who worked in the now-closed factories — producing cars, chemicals and heavy machinery — that turned Milan into a powerhouse. industry.

The University of Milano-Bicoccafor example, opened about 25 years ago on the site of an abandoned Pirelli factory.

The increase in student numbers is evident in how nightlife has developed, he said.

Best of all, he added, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, bars and restaurants have replaced stores in many neighborhoods, accelerating the changing face of those areas.

According to YesMilano, the city’s tourism website, last year some 8.5 million visitors visited Milan – not counting those who didn’t stay overnight. According to Istat, the national statistics agency, this is higher than the 3.2 million tourists who slept in Milan in 2004 and the 5 million tourists who slept in Milan in 2016.

The Navigli neighborhood – a formerly working-class area built around two of Milan’s most beautiful remaining canals – has undergone some of the most profound changes in the city, evolving from a shabby district charming across picturesque bridges into a trendy neighborhood filled with restaurants and bars.

Shops serving residents have closed, residents said, partly because rising rents and general turmoil have forced many people, including artists and artisans, to leave their homes. .

“The soul of the neighborhood is very different now,” said Ms. Valassina, of the Navigli Committee. “The city government supports the idea of ​​urban beautification because it believes it is a positive goal. Instead, they changed the DNA of the neighborhood.”

On a recent evening, crowds of tourists, students and locals strolled along a canal, with sign after sign selling takeout beer, wine or cocktails. The bars quickly filled up, and the crowd spilled onto the adjacent street, forcing passersby to push through the crowd.

Some young people said they were skeptical about the effectiveness of the new law.

“Young people are going to do what they do anyway; they will find different ways to solve that problem,” said Albassa Wane, 24, a native of Dakar, Senegal, and an intern at a fashion brand who has lived in Milan for five years.


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