People walk past a street kiosk in Athens, Greece, on April 14, 2018. For over a century, Greeks and tourists can stop by their neighborhood's street kiosk 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to get newspapers, batteries or some snacks and a bottle of water. However, the kiosks, or periptera, the traditional tiny convenient stores, which can be found on corners of central avenues or district squares all over Greece, have also fallen victims of the eight-year debt crisis. (Xinhua/Marios Lolos)
ATHENS, April 15 (Xinhua) -- For over a century Greeks and tourists can stop by their neighborhood's street kiosk 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to get newspapers, batteries or some snacks and a bottle of water.
However, the kiosks, or periptera, the traditional tiny convenient stores, which can be found on corners of central avenues or district squares all over Greece, have also fallen victims of the eight-year debt crisis.
Half of the 11,000 kiosks which were operating nationwide in 2010 have closed down due to recession, Thodoris Mallios, President of the Panhellenic Federation of Kiosk Renters told Xinhua in a recent interview.
In the years of the crisis Greeks think twice before purchasing a soft drink or handkerchiefs from a "periptero" where it costs more than a large supermarket chain.
As a result, thousands of abandoned wooden kiosks which were for decades part of the architecture and soul of Greek cities, are left crumbling.
In order to deal with risks posed to public health and safety, free up sidewalk space for the pedestrians and improve aesthetic standards, the City of Athens announced earlier this month a pilot plan which foresees the withdrawal of operating licenses and demolishment of 323 abandoned street kiosks.
Out of 931 "periptera" operating in 2011 across the municipality of Athens, more than 400 have returned in recent years to the municipality's assets, as renters have abandoned them or passed away.
Under Greek legislation most of these kiosks were leased to soldiers who were injured in wars, victims of tortures during the 1967-1974 military dictatorship, families of police officers who have lost their lives during service and other members of vulnerable groups.
Once the holder of the license dies, his widow or children under strict criteria can keep the small business running. Otherwise the license returns to the municipality, Nelly Papachela, Deputy Mayor in the City of Athens, explained to Xinhua about the plan.
"We decided to withdraw the licenses of about two thirds of these (400) kiosks for many reasons. Many had been abandoned and posed risks for public health. Several have already been removed," she said.
"The key problem was that the profit margin for kiosk renters has decreased dramatically and only a few which are located by busy roads can financially survive," she added, when asked why the city council does not renew all the licenses for potential new renters.
"We took the decision to keep the one third of the kiosk posts. The licenses for the 30 percent of these sustainable kiosks will be given to vulnerable groups, such as the disabled, unemployed and so on according to the law. For the other 70 percent there will be a tender for the licenses so that the municipality can also raise some revenues," Papachela said.
The idea of finding fewer "periptera" around the center of Athens and across Greece in the future has saddened locals and foreign visitors. The friendly renters of the tiny kiosks are always there to sell necessities and provide information for an apartment which is up for sale in the neighborhood or directions to a monument or store.
"They shouldn't do that. Why would they want to do that? It keeps people busy. People get to buy, people get to sell. Why would they do that?" Lorna McDonald, a tourist strolling under the Acropolis hill said, when informed about the plan, before hearing the bitter reason why many licenses are recalled. It was a decision dictated by the harsh reality of the crisis.
"The city landscape changes one way or another, mainly due to the economic situation and the drop of revenues issue. Many kiosks close down regardless of whether we intend to take action or not," Papachela told Xinhua.
"In my opinion the "periptero" should be protected, because it is part of the unique identity of Athens, but those which will remain open should be sustainable, located in spots where they do not obstruct the pedestrians and be of service to the local community," she added.
Thodoris Mallios shared the same opinion. "We agree with the scrapping of kiosks posts for a simple reason. This way, potential renters will not find themselves trapped in a dying business, while current kiosk renters may have a chance to survive financially," he told Xinhua.