Adria | Danube Canal Bar Owner Fights the City Over Licenses

Adria-owner Gerold Ecker continues to fight for his right to stay in the popular location, blocking the opening of a new restaurant.

In the ongoing rift between city authorities and Adria-Wien owner Gerold Ecker, the restaurateur has successfully warded off the city’s latest attempt to shut down his bar on the Danube Canal

Most recently, it appeared that the ongoing tug-of-war over the Adria was reaching an end. The city got a court order for eviction for the bar, scheduled for June 9. However, to the surprise of City Councilor for the Environment Ulli Sima, Ecker got an injunction to delay the decision. 

According to a report in Der Standard July 17, the payment of a court-ordered security deposit of €53,000 satisfied a District judge in Wien-Leopoldstadt to temporarily suspend the city’s eviction order. Ecker’s appeal is now subject to review by the Viennese Civil Court. The recourse has most likely only bought him time, suggested the Kurier, postponing, rather than preventing, the eviction. 

The banks of the canal belong to the Donauhochwasser-Konkurrenz (DHK), composed of the Stadt Wien, Lower Austria, and the Federal government. Technically the legal battle is being fought between Ecker and the DHK, but the City, who had rented the Glashaus near the Salztorbrücke (an enclosed space between Adria’s two plots) to Ecker, plays a major role. 

No Legal Right to Operate the Adria

The dispute began in 2017 when a court audit criticized the low rent and lack of transparency in the old lease agreements. Sima, the environmental councilor (SPÖ), reissued six area leases along the canal. The new ten-year contracts bar a single tenant from operating more than one area, a problem for Ecker, who is also proprietor of the Badeschiff a bit farther down by the Urania Brücke. Ecker refused to apply under the new terms and took legal action against the ruling. After losing the right to serve guests on the outdoor spaces of the Badeschiff in January, and his Adria lease expiring in September 2019, Ecker has had no legal right to use the Adria area, as confirmed by the Austrian Supreme Court on November 27, 2019. However, Ecker has continued operating the bar as a squatter. 

Outraged by the injunction, Councillor Sima ordered the city’s lawyers to look into the matter. “We won all three instances, but still we don’t get our due,” Sima told the Kronen Zeitung, having learned of Ecker’s court order through the media. “We were kept waiting for six months; today would have finally been the date to clear the premesis. And now the district court is postponing it – without informing us or giving us any reasons.” 

New Project on Hold

A further complication is that the Adria-space has already been awarded to Clemens Hromatka und Johannes Kriegs-Au, owners of the start-up Boxircus. The two restauranteurs had planned to open a container street-food concept called “Taste” in May. Two of their containers have temporarily been set up in the space in front of the Badeschiff. Ecker’s refusal to vacate the Adria is a blow to the start-up, a loss of some €60,000 in revenue and jobs for 20 employees. 

As long the judicial process continues, Ecker refuses to move. To him, Sima’s new regulations are “campaign against the pioneers of the Danube Canal.” Ecker believes he has “achieved and created much that is positive,” including fostering inclusivity and integration, two city goals. Adria has 30 employees, including eight people with disabilities. Ecker also employs women from Meals Without Borders, a group of asylum-seekers. 

Both Ecker and Sima seem unwilling to budge. It remains unclear what will happen next with the Adria, but the battle appears to be far from over. Ecker told Kurier, “I’ll close when the legal process has been brought to an end.” For now, the Adria remains open. 

Amina Frassl
Born in Vienna, Amina is now studying journalism and politics in New York City.

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