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Schanigarten is the Austro-Bavarian term for tables and chairs set up on the sidewalk in front of eating and drinking places. Unlike normal beer gardens (Gastgärten), the customers actually sit on public property. Originally, Schanigärten (pl.) referred only to Viennese coffee houses, but now the expression is used in other parts of Austria and for other types of establishments like restaurants and taverns.
In order to operate a Schanigarten, an establishment needs an authorization according to road traffic or trade regulations, which is valid from March 1 to November 15. The Schanigarten is a very attractive proposition for the owners of an establishment as they only pay a very limited yearly fee of several euros per square meter to the municipality. Operations like ice cream stores can thereby effectively multiply their seating area on public property at minimal cost. An extreme example is the ice cream store Zanoni in the Vienna city center that extends its Schanigarten over three quarters of the adjacent public square and has set up glass separators to prevent side walk users from crossing the privatized zone.
Furthermore, permissions are also granted to set up Schanigartens not on the sidewalk but on the actual driving lanes or parking lanes, reducing the number of available parking spaces.
The origins of the term are unknown. One thread of speculation believes it stems from "Gianni's garden". Indeed a first authorization to put up tables and chairs on the street was given around 1750 to Johann (Gianni) Jokob Tarone (Tarroni), a former distiller probably of Italian descent who had opened a coffeehouse on Graben. Another popular tale involves a Schani derived from the common name Hans or French: Jean for an apprentice boy or waiter, who was told to "Put up the garden!" He then dutifully obeyed the order by carrying chairs, tables and flower boxes outside.
- Wirtschaftskammer Wien - Schanigarten-Leitfaden (PDF-Datei)