Antwerp extends no-alcohol zone

Antwerp extends no-alcohol zone
Koningin Astridplein in Antwerp, where an alcohol ban has been in place since 2011. Photo by Helen Lyons/The Brussels Times

The alcohol prohibition zone in Antwerp will be extended to Sint-Jansplein and the surrounding streets following a decision by the city council.

The nuisance caused by drunken people on the square has increased noticeably in the last two years, according to Belga News Agency.

Nuisance drunks were what prompted the creation of the alcohol-free zone around the De Coninckplein and the Koningin Astridplein in the first place, 10 years ago. The city introduced a ban on alcohol consumption in 2011 because the neighbourhood was plagued by rowdy drunks from early morning to late at night.

Now they say that nuisance has moved to the area around Sint-Jansplein. According to the city, 400 interventions due to public drunkenness have taken place there in just a few months.

People buy alcohol in shops in the neighbourhood and hang around the square, making a lot of noise at night, throwing cans on the ground, harassing shopkeepers and their customers and reacting aggressively to police intervention. Vomiting and urinating in public are also common phenomena.

According to Mayor Bart De Wever (N-VA), the introduction of the alcohol ban in a demarcated zone contributes to the liveability and safety in the neighbourhood.

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“This was already apparent from the earlier introduction of a ban on alcohol in the areas around the De Coninckplein and Koningin Astridplein, among others,” de Wever said.

“The introduction of an alcohol prohibition also creates the possibility of identifying problematic users and referring them to the necessary assistance. The alcohol prohibition is not an end in itself, but is accompanied by a robust package of accompanying measures to improve the feeling of safety.”

The city has already taken some measures to deal with the problem, such as increased police surveillance.

An investigation is also underway into relocating the public bathroom at the square and the benches around the playground, and the city is working on flanking measures to increase the sense of security and quality of life on the square, such as tidying up the streets, providing better lighting and adding a new loading zone and additional bicycle storage facilities.

These interventions have not yet led to the desired result, the city admits.

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