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COVID-19 RULES

Schanigärten against Covid: Vienna to allow outdoor dining through winter

The Austrian 'Schanigärten' tradition will be allowed to take place even during the cold months in Vienna as the pandemic will 'unfortunately accompany us'

vienna cafe bar outdoor seating
Vienna's sidewalk eating areas can stay open during the winter. (Photo by Rick Govic on Unsplash)

The City of Vienna has confirmed that it will extend the regulation allowing the sidewalk eating areas, known as Schanigärten, to continue open during the winter season.

The Schanigärten is the Austrian term for the tables and chairs set up on the sidewalk in front of bars and restaurants. The establishments need a special permit to set them up, as they are built in public areas.

Usually, the licenses are only for the spring and summer months. Still, with the coronavirus pandemic, businesses in Vienna have been able to keep the seating areas open during the cold season.

READ ALSO: Vienna announces stricter Covid rules in hospitals to protect the ‘vulnerable’

The goal is for Viennese gastronomy to offer its guests “maximum comfort and even more safety over the coming autumn and winter”, according to a press statement. Businesses that have a summer Schanigarten permit can extend it to February 28th.

The Austrian capital said the measure would also provide financial relief to companies, as they will save costs of dismantling, temporary storage and reassembly of the areas.

During the 2021/22 winter season, more than half of the Viennese restaurants took advantage of the offer and kept the areas open over autumn and winter.

“Due to the current pandemic situation, it was clear to me that the extension of these special measures also makes sense for the coming winter season because we must continue to do everything possible to help Viennese entrepreneurs continue to run their business successfully”, Finance City Councilor Peter Hanke said.

READ ALSO: Travel: What Covid rules are in place when visiting Austria this summer?

Coronavirus cases continue rising

The outdoor seating areas are also seen as safer for guests than crowded indoor rooms, especially as the numbers of new coronavirus infections continue rising even during the summer.

On Monday, July 18th, Austria’s Health Ministry reported 8,449 new coronavirus cases after 62,364 PCR tests were taken. There were 1,301 people in hospitals being treated for Covid-19 (143 more than the day before), and 76 people were in intensive care units.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, 18,934 people have died from Covid-19 in Austria. Only 61 percent of the population has valid immunity protection, which consists of a combination between valid vaccines and/or recovered status.

READ ALSO: Will Austria bring back its mask mandate before autumn?

Despite rising Covid-19 numbers, the government says that the situation in hospitals is still manageable and that it does not expect any new restrictions to be announced in the short term.

However, Austria’s Health Minister Johannes Rauch (Greens) had already warned that measures such as mandatory use of masks would likely come back during the autumn months when transmission of airborne viruses tends to increase.

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ENERGY

From lighting to ice skating: How Vienna plans to save energy

Winter is approaching and with it a higher use of energy. Here’s what the City of Vienna is doing to save gas and electricity this winter.

From lighting to ice skating: How Vienna plans to save energy

As the war in Ukraine continues and energy prices skyrocket, Austria could be in for a tough winter.

To offset some of the impacts, the City of Vienna is now preparing for the cold season and rolling out a series of energy saving measures.

The aim is to reduce energy consumption in the Austrian capital by 15 percent by the end of March 2023, which is in line with the target set by the European Commission earlier this year.

FOR MEMBERS: UPDATED: How reliant is Austria on Russia for energy?

Mayor Michael Ludwig said: “Cooperation in Vienna is the most important basis for getting through difficult times well and safely.

“We proved that during the pandemic and we will prove that now. Our motto is: stick together so that everyone stays warm.”

Here are the main elements of the plan.

Ice skating

The Wiener Eistraum ice skating rink on Rathausplatz is scheduled to run from January to March 2023. But, according to the Wiener Zeitung, there is uncertainty over whether it can take place at all this winter.

The structure on Vienna’s town hall square is a popular winter attraction in the city. It attracts both locals and tourists with pretty lighting and pre-heated ice skates for hire. But it also requires a lot of energy to operate.

As a result, there is a possibility that the Wiener Eistraum could be cancelled or scaled back, although a final decision hasn’t been made yet.

READ ALSO: Reader question: I’ve received my Austrian Klimabonus as a voucher, now what?

Christmas markets

The Wiener Zeitung reports that Vienna’s Christmas market in front of the Rathausplatz is currently not at risk of being cancelled – at least not under the current plans.

The Rathausplatz is the city’s biggest Christmas market and is scheduled to open on November 19th, which is one week later than in 2021.

Lighting

The City of Vienna said the conversion to LED street lighting is continuing across the capital. So far, around half of the city’s 153,000 street lamps have been replaced with LED bulbs. 

The use of street lighting in Vienna has also changed. From 10pm, lighting in low-traffic areas is reduced to 75 percent, and then to 50 percent after midnight.

The LED street lighting project is expected to reduce energy consumption by 60 percent and is part of the city’s long-term energy saving plans.

Administrative buildings, campuses and pools

Energy saving measures are also being rolled out across administrative buildings, at public pools and educational buildings in Vienna.

The Town Hall claims that around 193,000 MWh (or €14.7 million) has already been saved at 42 government buildings, including at kindergartens and schools.

Further energy saving projects are planned for the Jörgerbad, Floridsdorferbad and Kongressbad public pools.

Additionally, the Liselotte-Hansen-Schmidt campuses in Donaustadt, Liesing and Penzing are heated and cooled with geothermal energy. They are also fitted with large photovoltaic systems.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to keep energy bills down in Austria

Investment in the energy network

Between 2022 and 2026, Wiener Stadtwerke Group will invest around €6.2 billion to improve Vienna’s energy infrastructure, with €5.7 billion earmarked for “climate-friendly investments”. 

Wien Energie is investing €1.2 billion into the conversion of the energy system by 2026 and around €400 million is reserved for the expansion of renewable electricity production.

Peter Hanke, City Councillor for Economic Affairs, said: “In addition to the city’s goal of being climate-neutral by 2040, the security of supply for the Viennese is particularly important to me. 

“By 2030, we will invest around €3 billion in the network security of the federal capital Vienna via Wiener Netze. 

“Such a stable power grid makes the integration of renewable energies possible because 90 percent of the energy transition takes place in the distribution grid.” 

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