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Budapest Authorities Shut Down Jewish Community Center and Bar

By Tom Szigeti // 2017.06.30.

On Wednesday, Budapest authorities shut down the bars at Aurora Café, a community center and bar in the city’s 8th district which has served as both a place to party and a meeting place for Jewish community groups, NGOS, refugee aid organizations, and opposition organizations.

News of the closure of Aurora’s bars, which comes on the heels of a 14-hour raid on the center that occurred two weeks ago, has generated accusations in both the Hungarian and international press that the closure was politically motivated to silence a gathering place of people and groups who are generally critical of the Orbán government and its policies.

The Forward and the Times of Israel have both reported on the closure of Aurora’s bars, as well as on the actions of the far-right nationalist group Sixty-four Counties Youth Movement. According to The Forward, a

“black-shirted group came to Aurora in the middle of a Sunday and posted photos with a cross that was drawn across George Soros’s face. Proudly videoing themselves, they spray-painted ‘Stop Operation Soros,’ with the symbol of their group in several places near the entrance to Aurora.”

While the city is now claiming that Aurora never had a license to operate its bars, the group’s spokesman denies this vehemently. Likewise, Hungarian news site pointed out that Aurora only opened its doors after receiving its operation permit. Even earlier this year, the community center underwent an unusually intrusive procedure to renew its operating permits.

Speaking to Index, one of Aurora’s leaders said that he had spoken to an attorney who regularly deals with legal issues facing nightclubs and bars. This attorney said that he has never heard of such a closure. He found it strange that one of the reasons given is Aurora’s supposed status as a “drug den”, a claim belied by the fact that if one were to raid any of Budapest’s numerous nightlife spots, authorities would likely find the same amount of drugs as they found in their raid on Aurora (15 people were detained out of 120 guests present).

In addition, Index wrote in a recent article that the closure of Aurora’s bars has long been the desire of certain city leaders. For example, while authorities claim that the lengthy raid on the club came as a result of a spontaneous complaint from a resident, the fact that 30 police, as well as officials from the district, appeared on the scene in an extremely coordinated manner puts such claims into question.

All in all, these facts have led many to believe that the closure of Aurora’s bars, as well as the police raid, are not a simple municipal issue, but rather are a politically motivated attack on a community center that openly supports causes that the Fidesz government abhors and demonizes.

Aurora’s spokesman said that, while the community center is not in immediate danger,

The bar and garden café provide us with at least 80 percent of our budget.  Aurora depends on this budget to keep running and if they take it away from us, it can be a huge problem.

He added that Aurora will fight the district’s decision in court.


Via the Forward, Index, the Times of Israel, the Guardian, and the Budapest Beacon

Images via Aurora Facebook Page