Local residents, workers and those simply walking down Rothschild Boulevard this week couldn’t possibly miss the display erected there by the Nespresso company to promote its new coffee machine.
In the middle of the boulevard, the company put up an installation that evokes main attractions in London – Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, a double-decker bus, the red public phone booth and a Tube (subway) station. Umbrellas have been hung on the trees, actors portray Queen Elizabeth II and guards at the royal palace and there have also been musical performances.
Alongside all this are stands at which Nespresso representatives offer passersby cups of coffee on condition they are willing to hear a sales pitch for the new appliance.
At large events, like the Tel Aviv Marathon, the municipality allows companies sponsoring the event and contributing significant funding to it to conduct commercial activity in public area. Surprisingly enough, in this case the company was not asked to pay for taking over one of Tel Aviv’s busiest streets. The municipality said that the event was for the public’s benefit; anyone could participate and traffic on the street was not blocked – which isn’t accurate, since the event blocked the bicycle lane.
Rachel Gilad-Wollner, a former Tel Aviv city councilor who during her term helped formulate criteria that restricts commercial events in public spaces, called the Nespresso installation “scandalous” and said she had received numerous complaints.
“It should be clear that public space should not be rented for commercial marketing events,” she said. “Moreover, the municipality didn’t consider that it was harming the area’s cafes. It is certainly improper that nothing was paid for closing the space, while residents who want to make block parties are made to pay thousands of shekels to the business licensing department. It’s clear that residents enjoy a block party more than a short [cup of] espresso.”
City regulations state that the municipality can approve commercial events in public areas under certain conditions, including ensuring unobstructed and safe passage, signage and advertising that integrate into the surroundings and staging the activity for a limited time.
Over the past few years, the municipality has allowed the appropriation of public spaces for private and commercial events and later apologized for doing do. In 2013, for example, a wedding was held at the Tel Aviv Marina and the area was closed to the public with the approval of the Atarim municipal corporation.
In 2012 the pier at the Tel Aviv Port was closed off for a housing fair; in 2010 the lobby of the Charles Bronfman Culture Palace was rented by the Gindi company for an apartment-marketing event, and in 2009, the city allowed the Piaggio company to display its motorbikes and accessories along Ben-Gurion Boulevard.
The Tel Aviv municipality responded by saying, “Contrary to what is being claimed, we are not talking about the blockage of a public area or a closed event; every resident could pass on the boulevard without restriction. The city got no payment for the event, which was meant solely for the public’s benefit. The event was approved by the cooperation committee as is customary.”
Past apologies, the city added, were for closed or private events in public spaces that breached city policy.
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