If you were hoping to crack open a beer while enjoying a socially distanced visit to the Belgian coast once the weather gets nicer, Blankenberge isn’t the beach you’re looking for.
Mayor Daphné Dumery is introducing a ban on alcohol on public property in the seaside town, in order to ‘avoid discussion about the coronavirus measures,’ according to De Standaard.
The idea is that drinking alcohol makes people more likely to socialise and strike up conversations with strangers, and with Belgium’s recent reversal of the relaxation of some coronavirus measures, there’s certainly plenty for beach-goers to talk about.
“We have seen in the past that most violations of coronavirus measures or discussions with the police can be traced back to alcohol consumption on public property,” said Dumery.
The mayor wants all coronavirus measures to be enforced as best as possible, and says alcohol often gets in the way of that.
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There were a number of issues last summer at the popular beach destination, including a massive brawl that required police reinforcements from neighbouring towns and led Dumery to briefly close Blankenberge to day trippers, saying then, “Our town needs a time-out.”
With bars and restaurants closed as a result of the pandemic, people are instead drinking in public parks or on beaches. Beginning this Saturday, they’ll be fined €250 for doing so.
The ban doesn’t include people relaxing on the beach in front of their own private home, as that beach is considered an extension of their house. It does, however, include people who rent sun loungers at beach bars.
Signage is going up around the beach to let people know about the ban.
“We will keep these measures in place as long as necessary, and will not link a possible relaxation to other relaxation measures,” said Dumery. “If we feel it is becoming disproportionate, the ban will be scrapped.”
Buying alcohol in takeaway orders from restaurants and cafés was already prohibited, and night shops are not allowed to sell alcohol after 8:00 PM.
The Brussels Times