Sausage stands fail to cut the mustard in Wenceslas Square gentrification

Photo: CTK

They’ve been a feature of Prague’s Wenceslas Square for decades but could soon be on the way out. The 24-hour klobasa or sausage stands have long been a lifeline for hungry tourists and late-night clubbers alike, but could be a thing of the past within a few years if the City Council gets its way.

Photo: CTK
Dotted along the pavements that line Wenceslas Square are a series of brightly-lit booths offering grease and comfort to weary passers-by. Fifty crowns will get you a chunky grilled sausage of doubtful provenance, swimming in oil and slathered in mustard.

But this could soon be a thing of the past. Wenceslas Square is about to undergo a complete makeover by architect Jakub Cigler, whose firm won the tender to renovate Prague’s main commercial thoroughfare.

Prague City Council recently approved amendments which will see all of the food stands removed by 2012. Rudolf Blazek, deputy mayor of Prague, told reporters the stalls were a source of litter and attracted homeless people and delinquents scrounging for food. This scene clearly doesn’t belong in the architect’s vision of a gentrified Wenceslas Square.

The first stands to go – in June 2008 - are the two large ones at the bottom, at Mustek. They’re currently surrounded by the popular Christmas market, and removing them could prove controversial, as I found from talking to these British tourists:

“You’ve got to have some places for people to eat. People want to eat outside, it’s part of the market. You can’t just…no, it’s not on.”

The council is arguing this attracts lots of homeless people who pick through the bins because there’s so much food about and they want to get rid of them.

“I can understand that, but I think they would spoil the markets and the atmosphere of the markets if they did away with the food stalls.”

“Are these permanent, all year round?”

They are, and have been here for quite a while, which is why it’s quite controversial. But you like them though.

Photo: CTK
“Yes! We do. I mean, they’ve got to provide other food stalls in the market if they get rid of these. At this time of year, there’s got to be food about because there are so many visitors in this area.”

Deputy mayor Blazek says if people are hungry there are dozens of cafes and restaurants in the vicinity to go to instead. But that argument has done little to satisfy sausage lovers. Czech journalist Milos Cermak wrote a front-page column protesting against the plan. Yes, there are lots of places to eat around Wenceslas Square, he wrote. But what if just want a sausage?

What indeed. But the new regulations are likely to go ahead as planned, as Wenceslas Square goes upmarket. And that’s left sausage stand fans fearing the wurst.