EXCLUSIVE: Spate of Incidents Brings Crackdown on Underage Drinking

Danish teen mayhem elicits both worries and beer sales

By Jennifer Leevan, Lauren Holter and Marcia Caceres

Danish students at Club Roxy

Danish students party at Club Roxy in Prague’s Old Town: Old enough to dance, but maybe not to drink.
Photo by Marcia Caceres

Czech authorities plan to crack down on underage drinking after thousands of Danish teens caused mayhem in the normally tranquil center of Prague the last two weeks of February.

“We are shocked by how badly some tourists behave in our city and how much they destroy,” Prague police spokesperson Eva Kropacova told Politiken, a daily Danish newspaper.

Stepanka Katloukalova, Prague police chief inspector, exclusively told Prague Wandering that a bill proposal is already in the works that would threaten closures for bars repeatedly sanctioned for underage drinking.  The legal age to consume alcohol at a bar or restaurant in the Czech Republic is 18.

“’We are shocked by how badly some tourists behave in our city and how much they destroy,’ Prague police spokesperson Eva Kropacova told Politiken, a daily Danish newspaper.”

Thousands of Danish students as young as 16 traveled to Prague without adult supervision between February 11 and 25. In the first of two groups sent by Rejsemaegleren travel agency, two Danish students were stabbed by their fellow travelers, and the teens inflicted thousands of dollars of damage on multiple hotels throughout the city, according to Czech and Danish press reports.

In Denmark, according to a group of Danish students at Balls Deep, a bar in the center of Prague, the stabbings in Prague were breaking news. “I’m scared of people with knifes in the city,” Emil Hansen, 17, said after explaining why he bought a stun gun, commonly known as a taser, for protection on the day of his arrival.

Danish students obtained signatures from their parents for the travel agency before going on their week long trip, but there was no adult supervision during their drinking sprees around the Czech capital, Hansen confirmed.

It’s typical for Danish students to spend their holiday skiing in France or Italy, but traveling to Prague is a much cheaper option, which is a plus for the students and the city’s many drinking establishments.

Hotel and food prices are generally 20 percent to 50 percent cheaper than in Western Europe, but it is the beer that is the biggest draw for young revelers. A beer in Denmark typically cost $7, as opposed to beer in Prague, which is under $2.

“We just drink all we want,” Hansen said, holding a big mug of beer at Balls Deep. “It’s very cheap.”

Jas Huggins, Ball's Deep owner.

Jas Huggins, Ball’s Deep owner.
Photo by Marcia Caceres

The Czech Tourist Authority said the Czech police already intensified supervision of restaurants, pubs and bars, and Jas Huggins, the American owner of Balls Deep, agreed. Fifteen police stormed into his bar last week in search of underage Danes and immediately began checking customers’ ages. After seeing that everyone in the front of the bar was of age, they left without realizing that a large group of underage Danes were playing beer pong in the back.

However, Hansen said that some bars checked his and his friends’ ages before serving them, but he has a fake identification card that he used to buy drinks for his friends.

This underage drinking is not singular to Danish students however. One freckled and wide-eyed Czech student, Honza Racek, 16, remarked that it is uncommon for pubs to ID anyone. “We drink illegally, it is normal,” Racek said.

In an attempt to limit underage drinking and problems with the police, the Danish Ambassador to the Czech Republic, Zdenek Lycka said, “Both our government and our embassy have appealed to parents to speak to students about how to behave.”

The large numbers traveling to Prague at once can be explained by the advertisements of these trips by Danish travel agencies, which specifically target students. Lise Schouboe, of the Danish Embassy in Prague, guessed that an additional 50,000 Danes traveled to Prague this year as opposed to last year. She thinks the sudden spike in numbers can be attributed to the use of social media by these travel agencies.

With thousands of unsupervised students storming Prague at once and large groups traveling together, businesses know when the Danes walk in.

“They ate everything we had,” said Katerina Veselai, a Prague Starbucks employee. “The mess they left was terrible, but they didn’t break anything.”

Jennifer LeeVan is in the NYU Class of 2014, majoring in Broadcast Journalism. Her hometown is Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Lauren Holter is in the NYU Class of 2015, majoring in Journalism and Metropolitan Studies. Her hometown is Denver, Colorado. Marcia Caceres is in the NYU Class of 2015, majoring in Journalism and Anthropology. Her hometown is Bogota, Colombia.

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Categories: News, Spring 2013 Issue Number 1

Author:The Prague Wandering

The Prague Wandering is an NYU based study abroad webzine- the only one of its kind. It focuses on issues in contemporary Czech culture and the city of Prague, exploring beyond the study abroad bubble.

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