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Dinner’s getting cold in Germany

Marketplace Staff Oct 23, 2007

Dinner’s getting cold in Germany

Marketplace Staff Oct 23, 2007


Doug Krizner: The chill of autumn air can take the fun out of dining outdoors. Unless you use an outdoor warming lamp. In Germany, they’re called “heat mushrooms,” because of their shape. But as Brett Neely reports from Berlin, global warming may soon make those mushrooms an endangered species.

Brett Neely: It’s a typical fall night around Berlin’s uber-trendy Hackescher Markt. Hundreds of people sit outside eating, drinking and smoking. All under the toasty glow of dozens of gas-powered heat lamps. There are even neon-lit faux palm trees.

But come January 1st, Berlin’s al fresco diners could be forced to come in from the cold.

Felicitas Kubala (interpreter): Life is hard. We don’t live in the south, we live in the north.

Felicitas Kubala is a Green Party member of Berlin’s Parliament. She’s proposed a bill that would ban what German newspapers have taken to calling “killer mushrooms” from the city’s sidewalk cafes.

It turns out that each heater can release as much CO2 as a small car. Multiply that by 5,000 or so heaters in Berlin, and you can see the problem.

Kubala (interpreter): You can’t say, you’re cutting your CO2 with fewer cars or power plants, and then on the hand say that we’ll emit more CO2 because we’re putting gas heaters everywhere.

If approved, the ban would take effect January 1st, the same day tough new citywide anti-smoking laws kick in.

Berliners might have to go cold-turkey twice. No more smoking indoors, and no warm refuge outdoors.

Restaurant owner Sonia Jarocki has a cafe with a large outdoor patio:

Sonia Jarocki (interpreter): I believe they’re going to kill the restaurant business — first with the smoking ban, then with the heat lamps, then all of us can just close up.

But smoking bans haven’t killed the restaurant business in many other cities.
And Jarocki’s fellow Germans may be made of sterner stuff than she gives them credit for.

A few tables away, one of her guests is having a drink and smoking a cigarette under a gas heater:

Cafe Patron: For me, I don’t care — I’ll go outside when it’s minus 20 outside and smoke a cigarette because I enjoy it.

And he thinks other Berliners won’t have a problem, either:

Cafe Patron: Germans are relatively law-abiding. They’ll figure out a way to adjust.

Some restaurants already have adjusted. They offer blankets to customers who want to sit outside in the cold.

In Berlin, I’m Brett Neely for Marketplace.

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