Postcard from... Berlin

 

They are nicknamed “Späti” which sounds like Spaytee and they are radically altering the German capital’s shopping habits. Späti is an abbreviation for Spätkauf or “late shop”. In 2006 – and pretty “late” compared to other European capitals – Berlin liberalised  Draconian laws which once made it impossible to shop after six in the evening and saw to it that Sunday trading remained strictly verboten (forbidden). Nowadays it’s legal to keep small shops open round the clock. The upshot is that a Berlin without its Spätis now seems unimaginable.

They are nicknamed “Späti” which sounds like Spaytee and they are radically altering the German capital’s shopping habits. Späti is an abbreviation for Spätkauf or “late shop”. In 2006 – and pretty “late” compared to other European capitals – Berlin liberalised  Draconian laws which once made it impossible to shop after six in the evening and saw to it that Sunday trading remained strictly verboten (forbidden). Nowadays it’s legal to keep small shops open round the clock. The upshot is that a Berlin without its Spätis now seems unimaginable.

The city boasts more than 900 late-night shops and the number is steadily increasing. The sell everything from beer to loo paper, provide instant internet access, tables to sit at, and usually stay open 24/7. Most employ a staff of two who work 10 to 12 hour shifts. Many workers are Turks who sometimes cook for their customers.

Christian Klier is a Berlin art student who has just completed an authoritative study of Spätis. His research established that an average of 200 customers visit each shop daily, and seven out of 10 buy on some kind of tab arrangement – a phenomenon which helps to explain why most Spätis are to be found in Berlin’s poorer districts.

But the Späti is more than just a shop. It is fast replacing the corner pubs for which Berlin and London were once famous (rent increases and gentrification are shutting those down). Spätis, says Mr Klier, have become Berlin’s new impromptu community centres.

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