Amid Protests, City Dismantles Cafes Near Opera House

By Ani Paitjan

Employees and owners of cafes surrounding Yerevan’s Opera House are protesting the city’s decision to limit commercial activity in the area to make room for a new Opera House Green Zone. At least one policeman and one protester was injured on the evening of March 14.

Yerevan Mayor, Hayk Marutyan, announced last month that nearly two acres of new green space would replace the several cafes surrounding the Opera House in the city’s center.

The dismantling of the area began on March 13, four weeks after the Yerevan Mayor’s Office formally notified five cafe owners that their lease contracts would be terminated within thirty days.

The spokesperson for the mayor, Hakob Karapetyan, wrote on his personal Facebook page that the decision to make the Opera Green Zone is irreversible and “stems from the interests of our city and the desire of its residents.”

According to Karapetyan, “the former tenants, for some reason, did not comply, and today the relevant subdivisions of the municipality have started dismantling the existing structures on the community property to start the landscaping works.”

A number of cafe employees blocked traffic in one of Yerevan’s central streets in protest.

Laert Poghosyan, manager of the Chocoladnitsa Café, stated that roughly 300 employees will lose their job as a result of the removal of the Opera cafes.

Karapetyan refuted this statement saying that the number is exaggerated.

“The Municipality is ready to support these businessmen in developing their businesses in other parts of the city within the law,” said Karapetyan.

During CivilNet’s live stream, Viktor Mnatsakanyan, head of the Kentron administrative region, said that in reality there are only twelve registered café employees.

“I am grateful to all the residents of Yerevan for standing by our side in this issue, we feel your support. Let’s bring back Yerevan’s cultural image,” wrote Mayor Marutyan.