Four years later, Serbian think tank’s advocacy pays off for the country’s bars and nightclubs

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Belgrade, Serbia’s largest city and capital, is recognized across the region and even Europe for the quality of its nightlife, including cafes, bars, and nightclubs. These businesses are an incredible cultural, social, and economic resource for Serbia. Unfortunately, in an effort to minimize noise pollution, in 2017 the national parliament limited the hours venues could operate, severely hindering their business potential. The rules forced businesses to slash their number of employees and tens of millions of U.S. dollars in revenue were lost. Atlas Network partner Libertarian Club Libek promoted an alternative that would take a more fine-tuned approach—regulating noise itself rather than operating hours. Despite wide support, including interest even from the opposition, the proposal failed at that time. However, in 2021 a new proposal entered parliament that echoed the essential points of Libek’s original work.

What was included in the final Law on the Protection from Noise in the Environment demonstrated that lawmakers listened to Libek back in 2017. The multifaceted law tries to balance the issue of noise created by nightlife in the capital while providing a space for such business activity. It allows local governments, including the city of Belgrade, to use noise measuring devices to enforce precise and technical limits on noise levels. The law also creates an outline for noise maps of cities. These would be an educational resource for residents and would encourage venue operators to be mindful of all effects and sources of noise related to their businesses.

The passage of this law in October represents a win for Libertarian Club Libek and for business owners in Serbia. It creates frameworks for a more targeted approach to solving the problem of noise and respects the needs of nightlife venues. It also allows room for local jurisdictions to tailor their own regulations to fit their specific needs. Libek is excited that their work inspired this policy change, and they plan to continue to work with local governments to find solutions that respect all sides of the issue.

Atlas Network supported this project with a grant.