Yerevan Café Conflict: Businesses Slated for Demolition Near Opera House Fight Back
Tensions flared today near Yerevan’s Opera Building when municipal employees attempted to haul out furnishings from the cafes slated for demolition.
Employees of two cafes – Atlantis Gardens and Hamanvak – tried to hinder the municipal employees form carrying out their instructions, which were deemed legal by Aram Martirosyan, a Yerevan Municipality official who arrived on the scene.
Yerevan Mayor Hayk Marutyan announced last month that that one hectare of new green space would replace cafes adjacent to the Opera House.
Martirosyan said that the land belongs to the municipality and that it had been leased to various businesses over the years.
Laert Poghosyan, who manages Chocoladnitsa, another café slated for demolition, said that the municipality’s decision will impact hundreds of workers.
“One month ago, the president and prime minister attended the opening of a hotel that will provide 50 jobs. Here, we’re losing 300 jobs. Where’s the prime minister or the mayor. Our lease contract runs until 2026. Who were we inconveniencing? As far as I can see, the area is pretty green,” Poghosyan told reporters on the scene.
A visibly irate Poghosyan told reporters that Mayor Marutyan should plant trees and bushes around his house on Northern Avenue.
Kentron District Head Viktor Mnatsakanyan, who arrived on the scene a bit later, told reporters that Atlantis Gardens had leased the space it now occupies for a mere 90,000 drams, an amount ridiculously below the current market price.
Mnatsakanyan said that demolition would begin as planned, starting with cafes close to the Opera House, and that the municipality will discuss the possibility allocating land to those businesses that have no other locations in Yerevan.
“I don’t know how it happened how they acquired ownership rights of the sites, not of the land, but of the structures. I’m amazed that something like this, near the Opera, was allowed. There’s a court case. I won’t even mention how they operate, with the music and the general aesthetic image. They don’t coincide with our perception of what Yerevan should be,” Mnatsakanyan said.
Yerevan Municipality Spokesman Hakob Karapetyan told reporters that the municipality sent notices to five businesses last December, telling them their leases would expire in 30 days.
The notices, according to Karapetyan, instructed the businesses to start removing all furnishings
“That reasonable time frame has passed. All notices were sent on time regarding the removal of furnishings and demolishing those structures that were illegally built. The municipality would have liked to see the businesses having done so,” said Karapetyan.
Ani Khachatryan, a Luys Yerevan Municipal Council member, then invited café employees to discuss the matter with municipality officials.
“We’ll discuss the matter and see what the employees want from us. The cafes were given a month to leave the sites. The demolition will be halted but this doesn’t mean that the municipality is pulling back from its plan to turn the area adjacent to the Opera House a green space,” said Khachatryan.
Video: Saro Baghdasaryan