Cafe owners will be made to compete for riverfront spots in Tartu

View overlooking the Emajõgi River in Tartu.
View overlooking the Emajõgi River in Tartu. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Seasonal cafes that have livened up the waterfront along the Emajõgi River in Tartu will need renewed momentum, as the city government intends to announce a competition for their locations. In addition to price, cafe owners will also be expected to offer attractive content as well as a pleasing environment.

Five years ago, the City of Tartu decided that the riverfront promenade in the city center could benefit from seasonal cafes. Three properties were put up for offer free of charge, and activity licenses were granted to those who offered the most attractive visions for cafes.

Väike Kuuba was the first to begin operating that summer, and two others soon followed. With each successive year, the riverfront has become an increasingly livelier place. The current contracts between these establishments and the city, however, are set to expire this fall.

OÜ Väike Kuuba board member Karl Astok said that they are certain they would like to continue operating.

"Considering how much effort we have put into the place, and how well received it has been by the public, then naturally we would like to continue contributing there, and we have many more ideas for how to improve the riverfront — certainly enough for the next five years as well," Astok said.

The directors of the three cafes currently operating along the promenade contacted the city government and said they were prepared to renegotiate their contracts and begin paying rent for the use of their properties.

Tartu Deputy Mayor Raimond Tamm (Reform) said, however, that the city is set to announce a competition soon that will be open to all interested parties.

OÜ Emajõe Suvekohvik board member Tarvi Uusen noted that organizing a competition is certainly not a rule in Tartu.

"When we sought a place to open a bar, then we knew that the leases for several properties in the city were ending," Uusen said. "We asked around the city whether a competition would be announced, and we have always been told that if everything is going well for a renter, then the city will extend their lease. I find that everything is going well for us. We are clean and safe, and have no problems whatsoever. And the city government itself, in smaller or bigger groups, has spent time at our establishment."

Tamm noted that he started getting calls about the properties last spring already, which is why the city can't not arrange a competition for them.

"The city government has always operated on the basic principle that if there are several parties interested in a specific rental property, then we will definitely organize a public auction or contest for it," he said. "The city has to be transparent in its actions."

The deputy mayor stressed that it is not only who would pay the highest price for the property that will be a deciding factor; rather, this would be the smallest factor involved. More important, he said, would be the substance and architectural solution of the summer cafe.

"And by that we don't mean only what their specific menu will be, or what drinks they will offer," Tamm explained. "Rather, whether they will also offer any sort of cultural program, whether they plan to build an open-air stage, for example." The description of the whole service to be offered, he added, is an important factor to be assessed.

The city plans to announce the competition for the riverfront properties within the next month, leaving an additional three months for offers. Both Astok and Uusen said that they would in all likelihood participate in the competition as well.

In order to attract business-owners, the city also intends to offer a longer lease period this time — according to Tamm, the next set of leases may be signed for a period of ten years.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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