City of Zug, 07.06.2023

The problem can only be solved with the closure of the Secret Garden

From the Corona period, the Hotel City Garden in the city of Zug has been operating its enlarged garden restaurant based on provisional permits. But local residents are now fighting back.

During the corona pandemic, restaurateurs had to become creative in order to be able to continue serving their guests. The Secret Garden pop-up restaurant, a green oasis in the middle of Zug, was created during this time. But the garden is no longer ‘secret’. On the contrary: it has become settled in the Loreto district and plans to stay there until 2028. Much to the annoyance of local residents.

But to start from the beginning: the Secret Garden is the restaurant of the City Garden Hotel located at Metallstrasse 20 in Zug. It thereby followed the CU restaurant.

The hotel was opened as a temporary facility in 2010, limited to a period of 12 years, as the north portal of the Zug city tunnel was to have been built where the hotel now stands. The plans for the city tunnel failed at the ballot box in 2015, however, and the hotel is expected to stay where it is until the end of 2028.

During the Corona period in 2021, the outdoor area of the hotel was expanded, and the Secret Garden restaurant was opened in May 2021. It was initially conceived as a pop-up that would operate over the summer of 2021.

The temporary building permit for the Secret Garden was extended to two years. Now, however, on 28 April 2023, the approval authority of the city of Zug received a planning application from Hotelbusiness Zug AG, which belongs to the Zug Estates Group and operates the hotel and the restaurant. They would like to continue operating the restaurant until the end of 2028.

The Secret Garden behind the City Garden Hotel becomes a point of contention in the neighbourhood         Photo: Matthias Jurt
The Secret Garden belongs to the City Garden Hotel on the Metallstrasse        
Photo: Maria Schmid
The three objections are about the minimum distance that a building or facility must have from the forest     

Noise in the residential area
Local residents are now expressing their resistance. The Approval Office (Bewilligungsamt) of the City of Zug cannot yet say how many objections to the building application have been received, but so far there have been “several”.

The Zuger Zeitung local newspaper has received three objections against the planning application for the Secret Garden. One comes from the Pro Natura environmental association, and the other two from a local resident who do not want to see their name in the newspaper.

The criticism they level at the planning application and the Secret Garden can be broken down into three points.

The forest and the animals
"We see woodpeckers, squirrels and even foxes less and less," writes the resident in his objection statement. What’s the point of the city of Zug promoting initiatives for more biodiversity while, at the same time, the Bergliwald (a local wood) , on the edge of which the City Garden Hotel is located, is massively and permanently devalued by an "artificially lit and noisy restaurant operation"?

All three objections are about the minimum distance that a building or facility must have from the forest. In its current form, the Secret Garden falls short of this requirement - at one point by more than four and a half metres. This is permitted if the Cantonal Office for Forest and Wildlife (Amt für Wald und Wild) approves an exception, and this was previously the case because it was a temporary permit.

Pro Natura writes that a further permit - now for five years - can no longer be considered, as the exceptional permit was only justified at the time due to the Corona restrictions for catering establishments. These restrictions no longer apply. Basically, according to federal law, installations near the wood are not permitted if they disturb or damage the wood.

The noise and the light
"Events are held again and again, which have caused noise far into the night, with excessively loud music and loud voices or people bawling," the resident said. Complaints to the operators went unnoticed, and the police intervened several times. When asked to comment, the Zug police did not want to confirm this.

The resident writes that light and noise emissions have increased in recent years, especially at Christmas time or on other major occasions. The Secret Garden is "the latest increase in this sorry history". The guests do not seem to be aware that they are in a residential area "with the appropriate sensitivity to noise." "The problem can only be solved with the closure."

Both residents criticised the noise report that Hotelbusiness Zug AG had enclosed with the planning application as being incorrect.

From temporary to definitive
Pro Natura and the residents now fear that the provisional permit could become a permanent one. A “providurium”, as Pro Natura calls it. A further extension would, in fact, correspond to a permanent permit, writes the resident.

And the local resident also fears that the limited operation will become “a creeping permanent statusthat will probably be converted into a regular permit at some point through customary law”.

“We kept to the operating hours”
On request, the communications officer at Zug Estates AG, Philipp Hodel, wrote that no changes were planned in the Secret Garden's operating concept. And there are also no plans for an adjustment or extension of the use of outdoor space. "However, as we would like to retain the additional design elements in the future, a planning application has now been submitted to approve them on an open-ended basis."

Zug Estates cannot comment on any objections because they have not seen them. "But we have adhered to the specifications of the operating permit," writes Philipp Hodel, "and, in particular, we also complied with the operating hours and quiet periods."