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The first Oktoberfest since COVID could bring Munich over $1 billion. So why isn‘t its mayor happy?

April 29, 2022, 5:21 PM UTC

Oktoberfest fans can finally rejoice. The world-famous annual festival will be held for the 187th time—and the first since the COVID pandemic. 

Typically Munich welcomes to the Theresienwiese fair grounds well over 6 million visitors that down roughly 78,500 hectoliters (2.1 million gallons) of beer served by a staff of 13,000. The roughly two-week long celebration contributes an estimated €1.23 billion ($1.29 billion) overall to the local economy.

Relief among representatives of the hospitality industry in Bavaria, was understandably tangible. A third straight cancellation — whether for health reasons or moral ones due to the war in Ukraine — would have dampened enthusiasm among consumers heading into the key summer biergarten season.

“You cannot measure the importance of Munich’s Oktoberfest in hectoliters, it goes far beyond the sheer volume of beer sold,” said Lothar Ebbertz, managing director of the Bayerische Brauerbund that represents the state’s breweries.

“Not only is the festival accompanied by intense media coverage, breweries invite their customers from far and wide to experience the Bavarian way of life and hopefully create lasting memories that transport a love for our beer culture with them when they return home,” he told Fortune on Friday.

No restrictions of any kind

Ever since it was first held in 1810 to mark the wedding of the Wittelsbacher prince regent, Ludwig I, to his bride Therese, the festival has been cancelled only 26 times — mainly during times of war.

Bavaria state Governor Markus Söder tweeted he was already looking forward to downing his first Mass, the traditional liter-size mug of beer, when Oktoberfest opens its doors on September 17.

“No other festival better stands for a cosmopolitan attitude and the zest for life than the Munich Oktoberfest. It’s an international trademark of Bavaria,” he posted.

Yet rather than exude excitement or even relief, the city’s mayor announced the festival would take place seemingly with the same heavy heart as last year, when he cancelled Oktoberfest. That’s because everybody—COVID positive or not—is invited to attend…despite his better judgement. 

“I definitely did not make this decision lightly,” Mayor Dieter Reiter told reporters on Friday.

Difficult circumstances

After seeking legal counsel and mounting a vain attempt to appeal to state and federal authorities, he concluded all avenues had been exhausted to impose even the most basic requirements to attend the festivities like a negative COVID test.

“Therefore I ordered administrators to begin preparations for an Oktoberfest 2022 without any restrictions or conditions,” Reiter said. “I only hope that the (epidemiological) situation doesn’t escalate in autumn such that federal and state governments flip-flop and cancel the Oktoberfest at the last moment.”

The city, Reiter said, would contractually ensure its taxpayers would not be held liable in the event of a cancellation.

Although the mayor said he was not the type to moralize, he made it furthermore clear he did not favor attending so long as Russia’s war on Ukraine was being waged.

“I cannot personally imagine happily enjoying festival atmosphere while in Ukraine, in our partner city of Kyiv, people are dying every day in an inhumane war not even two and half hours away by air,” Reiter said. “Everyone ultimately will have to decide for themselves whether they’re in the mood for celebrating.” 

Bavaria’s hotel industry said it understood the decision to move forward with the festival under the current circumstances was anything but an easy one. 

“It deserves respect,” said Angela Inselkammer, president of the state association

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