Oompah may be silenced in court

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The Independent Online
IS THERE anything more German than having a few drinks with friends in a beer garden on a balmy summer's night, wallowing in the music of the oompah band? For centuries, this is how people herabouts have been unwinding after a hard day, especially in beer-mad Bavaria.

There is, though, another facet to German life, one of deserted streets and shuttered houses, where neighbours will sue one another for the tiniest affront to their aural senses after 10pm. Silence in the prescribed hours is a German's constitutional right.

Six silent Bavarians, armed inevitably with lawyers, have declared war on the nocturnal habits of their country-folk. The legal skirmishes, pitting the Bavarian government in Munich against the self-appointed champions of the silent majority, have been going on for four years.

Yesterday Germany's highest administrative court ruled that silence must prevail and that Bavaria had no right, under federal law, to legislate over taverns' closing hours without taking the wishes of sleepy citizens into account. But Bavaria's environment minister yesterday vowed to carry on the fight.

This case will keep lawyers in beer for years to come.