Landungsbrücken, Michel, Elbe – everything in view from the balcony of the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie. But one thing clouds the prospect: In the future, visiting the plaza at a height of 37 meters will probably cost money – contrary to an old promise by Olaf Scholz.

It was opened with a promise: “As of today, every citizen of Hamburg can come here and say: ‘This is our balcony, the largest in the city.’ The Plaza is a public place, freely accessible and for everyone and every woman,” said Hamburg’s then Mayor Olaf Scholz on November 4, 2016. Since then, around 15 million people have visited the so-called Plaza of the Elbphilharmonie in the Hanseatic city – and in the Usually nothing paid for it (exceptions for groups, advance bookings and guided tours).

But the promise of 2016 may not be worth much nearly six years later. The Hamburg Senate and the ELBG operating company it controls are examining the possibility of charging entry to visit the concert hall’s viewing platform at a height of 37 meters in the future. A spokeswoman for Hamburg’s cultural authority confirmed corresponding considerations on Wednesday when asked by stern.

Elbphilharmonie Plaza costs too much

The reason: The operation of the concert hall including the plaza costs a lot of money. “So that the ELBG can continue to cover its costs and does not need any grants from the city of Hamburg,” plans for a general admission fee have been included, the spokeswoman said. It is not yet clear when this will be collected and how high it will be. In Hamburg local newspapers there is speculation about admission costs of up to five euros.

The cultural authority is trying to present the project as virtually without alternative: “A grant from the city to the ELBG would mean that savings would have to be made elsewhere in the cultural budget, so that this would be at the expense of other cultural institutions,” explained the spokeswoman. However, she conceded that hall rents could also be increased, which would then be reflected in the price of concert tickets. This would have affected around 900,000 concertgoers in the last pre-Corona season 2018/2019 (for comparison: According to “Statista”, a good 3.6 million people visited the Plaza in the same period).

According to the authority, the introduction of an entrance fee was already planned in the 2016 operating concept. It assumes annual costs of around two million euros for the operation of the plaza, i.e. not even one euro per visitor.

Hamburg has had plans for entry since 2016

The paper goes on to say: “A visit to the Plaza (will) be possible free of charge until the end of the first regular season 2017/18 (August 2018).” The statement by Olaf Scholz in November 2016 referred to this phase of getting to know each other, according to the cultural authorities. This was not clear from the speech of the then mayor.

The finance senator of the Hanseatic city, the SPD politician Andreas Dressel, defended the plans for a Plaza entrance fee on Twitter. “Precisely because the Elbphilharmonie cost a lot (and continues to cost, by the way), it is not possible without measures on the revenue side – unfortunately in individual cases also unpopular …”, he wrote.

Nevertheless, the Senate’s plan has been criticized. According to NDR, Norbert Hackbusch, the cultural policy spokesman for the Left Group in the Hamburg Parliament, called the plans “outrageous” in view of the construction costs of more than 800 million euros for taxpayers in Hamburg. He announced that he would submit an application to the city-state’s parliament that would allow the “Elphi” Plaza to continue to be used free of charge. As it sounded in 2016.

Sources: Authority for Culture and Media Hamburg, Elbphilharmonie-Plaza, Olaf Scholz’ speech in November 2016 at the “Hamburger Abendblatt”, “Statista”, Elbphilharmonie performance concept, Andreas Dressel on Twitter, Norddeutscher Rundfunk