ATHENS, Greece -- Greece's finance minister promised Wednesday to intensify inspections of beach bars and other Businesses renting out seaside chaise lounges and umbrellas, following complaints that non-paying island beachgoers can't find a spot on the sand.
Finance Minister Costis Hadzidakis issued a statement saying breaches of the law will not be tolerated. “I have given instructions ... for inspections to be stepped up,” he said.
Private beaches are illegal in Greece, where the constitution stipulates that all coastal strips are state property with guaranteed public access.
However, rocketing numbers of vacationers in the tourism-reliant country have driven up demand for beaches offering sun loungers, shelters, refreshments, snacks and — all too often — loud music.
Local authorities lease limited sections of beaches to entrepreneurs who bring in the amenities during the summer months and in some cases charge customers more than 100 euros ($109) for an umbrella and a pair of chaise lounges.
On many Greek islands, it’s now difficult to find a beach without the rentals during the height of the summer tourist season.
Protest groups on some popular Aegean Sea resort islands, including Paros, Naxos and Serifos, allege that some entrepreneurs often far exceed the scope of their leases, taking up entire beaches with their wares and sometimes banning non-paying visitors from setting up on their turf.
Greek media have dubbed the protests “the beach towel revolt,” referring to the items beachgoers brought with them to sit on before the spread of rented chairs.
Greece's top prosecutor ordered an investigation this week following the complaints.
The Finance Ministry’s statement said three companies active on two Paros beaches were found in breach of their lease agreements and will be ordered to leave.
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