The municipal council of Knokke-Heist is reported to be considering shutting down the 24 beach bars in the town, to deter drunken tourists who arrive from elsewhere in the country and spend the day doing nothing but drinking. “They are more of a problem than a benefit,” one council member told Het Laatste Nieuws.
The tourists are said to get drunk and keep apartment residents on the seafront awake with night-time noise. They are also known to go for a swim regardless of the condition of either water or swimmer; one incident last week narrowly avoided tragedy when a drunk 28-year-old Frenchman man had to be rescued from the water.
“We mustn’t tar all of the beach bars with the same brush, but there are a number who seem not to want to understand the rules,” commented Anthony Wittesaele, local councillor for beaches, in the paper. “Though they are perfectly simple. We have to think of our regular tourists and our residents. And we have to consider the image of our resort. It’s time for everyone to accept their responsibilities.”
“This has been going on for some time,” said Daniël D’Hooghe, chairman of the association of beach bar owners. “I predicted things would escalate. Everyone wants to go one step further than his neighbour,and so it goes on. Last week Knokke-Heist was again inundated with tourists from the north of France who were on vacation. I hope peace can return quickly.”
The council already has the power to close bars which present a nuisance – two of them were recently closed for a weekend after complaints. The option remains in the case of repeat offenders to make such a closure permanent.
Knokke is generally regarded as Belgium’s poshest beach resort, a reputation guarded jealously by the mayor, Count Léopold Lippens. Some years ago Lippens introduced a measure banning tourists from bringing cooler boxes onto the beach, claiming self-catering tourists added nothing to the town’s economy.