Hefty fines for some of Prague’s notorious tourist traps

Photo: Kristýna Maková

Several restaurants in central Prague were among two dozen eateries fined last year for severe breaches of consumer legislation. The Czech Trade Inspection Authority found that nearly 40 percent of restaurants inspected broke the law; the most frequent problems include short measures of beer and other drinks, overcharging, as well as automatically including tips in bills without the guests’ knowledge.

Photo: Kristýna Maková
The highest fine of 160,000 crowns, or over 8,000 US dollars, was handed to Pražský gurmán, a firm that runs U Vejvodů, a popular beer hall in Prague’s Old Town, according to the news website aktualne.cz. On their visit, the inspectors were themselves overcharged; three of their beers arrived in short measure ( i.e. lower volume than the advertised half litre) and one of their meals was also smaller than advertised. They were also charged for bread they did not order, an old trick in U Vejvodů’s book, and the bill included a 70-crown “involuntary” tip charged without informing the guests.

Second in the list came Mystic Café, a venue located just outside Prague Castle. Its proprietors were fined 100,000 crowns for overcharging; the guests were automatically charged a 10-percent tip without having been informed. English-speaking inspectors were also only given picture menus which did not list the prices, and were told that the drinks menu was not available at all. Mystic Café was a repeat offender as in 2012 it also landed a 50,000-crown fine.

Reporters from Aktualne.cz visited both places, posing as tourists. They found that U Vejvodů no longer used the deceptive tricks to cheat their clients. Mystic Café, on the other hand, seemed to be sticking with its past practices as the reporters encountered exactly the same problems as those registered by the inspectorate. The Bar Nebe, or Heaven Bar, in Prague’s Wenceslas Square, meanwhile, ran into trouble for overcharging as well as for a 5-percent tip put on the bill without the guest’s knowledge. That cost its owners a 80,000 crown fine.

Besides short beer measures, charging tips without informing customers was the most common problem inspectors came across last year. At least five other Prague venues were fined because of it, including the Čertovka and V Lázních restaurants, both located in popular tourist areas near Charles Bridge. Several other restaurants and bars were fined for illegally selling single cigarettes although Czech legislation demands that cigarettes can only be sold in sealed packs.

The Czech Trade Inspection Authority last year fined five more restaurants than in 2013. In total, its staff inspected 3,550 restaurants, bars, pubs and cafés and other places last year, and found that 39 percent of them broke the law in one way or another. The officials believe the high proportion of law breaking venues was due to the fact the inspection focusing on establishments that had already breached the law in the past and that it often acts upon tips from the public. Last year, the authorities receive nearly 780 such complaints.