Businessmen with ties to the government own bars in the Budapest ruin bar scene
Governing party Fidesz usually stands up for law and order, but not when it comes to the party district in the 7th district of Budapest. We were wondering why this was happening and we looked at who owns the biggest bars or the buildings that host them. We found a few businessmen with ties to the governing party.
The world-famous ruin bars of Budapest’s 7th district are one of the most important tourist attractions of the Hungarian capital. But the locals around Király and Kazinczy streets are complaining about the noise, the litter. They have already organized a march across the ‘party district’ demanding more control of the partygoers and earlier closing times for the bars.
The municipal council of the district made a decision a few weeks ago, and it said that the locals can decide about the opening times of the bars at a referendum. However, we still do not know when that might take place and we did not get an answer when we asked the municipality.
It is not even sure that there will be a referendum. Even if it will take place, it might easily be invalid. According to the written opinion of István György, the government’s commissioner responsible for Budapest, the municipality cannot regulate the opening times because the bars are located in an area that is part of the UNESCO World Heritage area and at such areas the police may allow bars to stay open after midnight. This means that no matter what the result of a referendum will be, it is not entirely sure that the decision will be carried out. The opinion is based on the 2013 amendment to the law regulating commercial activity.
Locals have already considered the idea of the referendum as another trick by the municipality to save time because at such a referendum the entire district would have to vote, and this matter only concerns those living in the downtown area. This means that the referendum would not be valid because participation would not reach the required 50 percent.
The municipality is lead by mayor Zsolt Vattamány from the governing right-wing Fidesz party, but the party does not have a majority in the council. It is usually the member from Jobbik, János Stummer, whose swing vote decides controversial questions. In this case, he voted with Fidesz.
It is a strange role switch that is going on in this case in the 7th district municipality: the left-wing parties support a more strict control of the bar scene while Fidesz is letting the conflict and the late-night parties go on. Fidesz in other parts of the country is usually the party that stands up for law and order.
We were wondering why this was the case, and we decided to look at who owns the most important bars of the party district. This is what we found:
- Roy Zsidai, manager and co-owner of Spíler Bistro has a close relationship with the prime minister’s family. He employed Viktor Orban’s eldest daughter as an intern, then later Ráhel Orbán asked Zsidai to be a guest speaker at the course taught by her at Corvinus University.
- István Száraz owns a cocktail bar called Black Swan. Száraz used to be the CEO of Hungarian media company Origo. The new owner and CEO of Origo is Ádám Matolcy, the son of the central bank chief. According to our sources, Black Swan is frequented by guests who arrive in luxury cars and that the bar organizes many private parties.
- Klauzál Street 8 is owned by Bálint Fülöp Somlai who bought the place last year. He bought the company that owns the house from Sándor Mudura (more about him later). Somlai is the chief of the TV department of New Wave Media Zrt. – this is the company that publishes above-mentioned origo and the one that is owned by the central bank chief’s son. The owner also took out a mortgage on the building: NHB Bank, also connected to the central bank chief Gyorgy Matolcsy, gave HUF 950 million for the project. We reached out to Somlai and he told Atlatszo.hu that after the reconstruction he is planning to open a co-working office building at Klauzál 8. He might as well open a bar in the basement or at the lower level. He stressed that his work at New Wave Media Zrt. has nothing to do with the real estate project or with the bank loan. He said he chose NHB Bank because that bank offered the best conditions for the loan he needed.
- The house next door at Klauzál Street 10 is owned by Sándor Mudura. This is where the bar called Doboz operates. Doboz is owned by a company tha belongs to a Jordanian citizen who was born in Kuwait. Mudura was involved in two of the biggest scandals of the country: the Kulcsár- and the Quaestor-scandals. Doboz is huge: it can officially hold more than 1400 guest and tourist guide site We Love Budapest calls it one of the biggest bars.
Written by Antónia Rádi
You can read the original story in Hungarian here.