Coronavirus in Greece: the kiosks of Athens, “the soul of the neighborhood”, are about to disappear

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Made of wood or metal, traditional or modern, in Greece they are called “peripteral” and have been part of the urban landscape since 1911. But the pandemic has them on the ropes.

Wood or metal, traditional or modern, the kiosk, which in Greece is called “periptero”, has been part of the urban landscape since 1911 but the crisis unleashed by the pandemic has once again put this symbol of Athens to the test.

The economic crisis, which took place between 2010 and 2018, wiped out almost half of these positions that, located on the corner of a sidewalk or a square, sell cigarettes, newspapers, magazines, sweets, drinks, sweets and, now, masks and gel alcohol.

The coronavirus epidemic puts this Athenian institution at risk, greek movie set and protagonist of popular songs.

“During the economic crisis, we went from 11,000 to 5,500 kiosks throughout the country, of which 500 are in Athens, “says Theodoros Mallios, president of the Union of Kiosqueros in the Greek capital, adding that” in recent months they continue to close. Confinement and sanitary measures taken by the government can be very difficult for our profession to cope with. “

At the end of September, due to a rise in coronavirus cases in large cities, the government announced the closure of the kiosks between midnight and five in the morning.

In the vicinity of the central square of Athens, Syntagma, the Panagiotis Karatsas kiosk operates normally 24 hours a day. “I have lost about 20% of my earnings due to the obligation to close at midnight. I went through many difficulties in the two months of closure due to the confinement, “he indicates.

Facing a heavy tax burden and with the decline of the purchasing power of the Greeks, several times he thought about closing his business.

“Several of my colleagues closed their posts in the center of Athens, I have resisted, but until when? The coronavirus is a new test for all of us. “

Just a few meters away, the same anguish invades Spiros Karagiorgis, who is “worried about the future”.

“In the center of Athens the situation is even worse because our clients they are usually office employees, many of whom are now telecommuting and tourists this year have not set foot in the capital. “

In six months, the number of foreign visitors fell by 76.9%, according to data from the Bank of Greece.

The merchant does not know how you will pay for the 1,500 euro license to the city of Athens, which has managed the peripheries since 2012.

Created at the beginning of the 20th century, the kiosks were assigned to ex-combatants to ensure their subsistence and they depended on the Ministry of Defense.

Now, it is difficult for municipalities to renew their licenses because “they seek to free up spaces for pedestrians and kiosks bother them,” says Mallios.

In the Petralona neighborhood, located under the Acropolis, the Merkuri square is lined with terraces. The newsstand Giorgos Siaplaouras complains that “The measures taken are ridiculous and only favor supermarkets.”

“It is not by closing the kiosks first that young people will stop partying,” he sighs.

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