The controversial heaters, popularly known in Germany as Heizpilze, or heat mushrooms, because they are shaped like the fungus, have again been popping up in their thousands on outdoor terraces and sidewalks as colder weather takes hold.
But patrons wishing to feel toasty warm in the winter chill will soon have to revert to more conventional means like blankets or staying inside to avoid freezing temperatures.
The ban of the propane-burning patio heaters – which can pollute the air with as much carbon dioxide annually as an automobile – will likely kick in on January 1, 2009 across central Berlin if officials from five central districts get their way.
“It’s absurd to try to simulate a Mediterranean climate in northern Germany,” Peter Beckers, a Social Democratic city councilman from the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district, told the Tagesspiegel newspaper.
The district of Pankow has already banned the patio heaters, and has now convinced four other districts – Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, Tempelhof-Schöneberg, Mitte and Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf – to come on board.
The matter will come before the district councils by mid-November. District officials still hope the city of Berlin as a whole will change its mind and slap a citywide ban on the heating devices. The city’s top environment official is currently reviewing the matter.
But court challenges are already underway – Pankow council has received two complaints against the decision – and legal action is sure to follow in other districts. The Berlin Hotel and Restaurant Association has also made an official complaint.
And some restaurants are already looking for loopholes. Several have attached patio heaters to the walls of their establishments, which means the heaters are on private, not public property – so the ban would not apply to them.