Police calm hipster frenzy at Berlin vegan restaurant

Police in Berlin had to clear crowds from in front of a new vegan restaurant, after hundreds of hungry hipsters packed the street outside, threatening to bring traffic to a standstill.

Police calm hipster frenzy at Berlin vegan restaurant
Wouldn't you stand outside in the cold for hours for a cup of revitalising green gunk? Photo: DPA

The party to mark the opening of Dandy Diner had only started 20 minutes earlier in the rapidly gentrifying Neukölln neighbourhood in southeast Berlin.

Such events are a common sight in the capital: a Facebook event offers free food and drink or the prospect of being seen among the young, beautiful people to create buzz around a new shop or restaurant.  

But on Saturday evening shortly after 8pm police decided that the situation was already spiralling worryingly out of control.

“It was simply too full,” a spokesperson told Berlin daily Morgenpost, explaining that with the crowds spilling into the road, police were no longer able to guarantee their safety.

By that time there were already 300 people packed into the restaurant in the hip Neukölln neighbourhood, and a further 500 waiting outside.

The crowd was so large that some were standing on the road on Karl-Marx-Strasse, one of Neukölln’s main streets, and others were crowding into the island in the middle.

But, law enforcement refused to budge and told the owners that they had to close down the party immediately, or they would be forced to clear out the shop themselves.

Vegan restaurants are surprisingly contentious places in the German capital, as they are seen by many as vapid hipster fashion symbols, whose opening normally heralds the gentrification of a neighbourhood and rapidly rising rents.

Dandy Diner seems to have created a buzz among Berlin's trendies because of the fame of its owners, two well-known fashion bloggers.

One of them, Carl Jakob Haupt, told Bild “I think it’s a shame that the party ended so quickly. But in the end I’m satisfied. It was the best restaurant opening that there’s ever been.”

But not everyone was so happy.

One commentator wrote one the restaurant's Facebook page: “Vegan burgers for the gentrification yuppies. That's just what Neukölln needed! Karl Marx Strasse is already dying out because the rents are going up so much… but as long as people get a posh burger…”

Neukölln is a traditionally working class neighbourhood with a large immigrant population from the Middle East. For a long time the neighbourhood was associated with high levels of crime and failed integration policies.

But more recently young people have moved in, leading to rises in rents as well as an increase in hip drinking holes and clubs.

In response to the Facebook post, Dandy Diner said that “long-term residents can also be happy to have a vegan alternative in their neighbourhood.”

Whether the Turkish residents of Neukölln will being giving up on local Döner and Pide joints and lining up for a beetroot tzatziki sandwich or a marinated tofu burger any time soon, only time will tell.


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EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.