Munich Finally Has Some Good News For Oktoberfest Fans

Six million visitors. 2.1 million gallons of beer. Nearly $1.3 billion in revenue pumped into the local economy. That, per Fortune, is how much the German city of Munich earns when it hosts Oktoberfest, the two-week festival which first kicked off in 1810. Originally featuring a horse race, the event was created to celebrate the union of then regent prince of Bavaria (soon to become King Ludwig I) to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen, according to the official Oktoberfest website. While the couple that first triggered the event may be long gone, the festival continued and spawned copycat Oktoberfests around the world for decades after ... until the coronavirus pandemic, that is.

Back in 2020, The Guardian reported the event was canceled, as government officials felt there was no safe way to hold it. (Oktoberfest is characterized by large crowds eating and drinking together in tents.) The same decision was made again in 2021, with the BBC citing similar health concerns. So there was much relief for both would-be revelers and local businesses when the city's mayor, Dieter Reiter, announced Munich is ready to bring the event back after its forced break. During a press conference held on April 29, Reiter said that, while they didn't reach the decision without plenty of thought, government officials finally chose to green-light the event, per Reuters.

In the end, pragmatism appears to have won out, as the mayor said: "I ordered administrators to begin preparations for an Oktoberfest 2022 without any restrictions or conditions,"  adding "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."

Oktoberfest is back under pressure

COVID weighed heavily on Munich mayor Dieter Reiter's mind, with Fortune reporting the mayor tried to push both state and federal authorities to sign off on requirements like a negative COVID test for attendees. As of publication, Oktoberfest participants will be free to come and go however they chose.

But a rise in COVID cases or a new variant isn't the only concern for Reiter. During the press conference, the mayor said he couldn't enjoy himself when Kyiv — which enjoys sister city status with Munich and is under three hours away by air — was suffering under what he called "an inhumane war." Reiter added that "Everyone ultimately will have to decide for themselves whether they're in the mood for celebrating," per Fortune.

This is not to say everyone feels as conflicted as Mayor Reiter about moving forward with Oktoberfest as usual. The state's tourism officials and brewers appear to be relieved to see the event, which the Oktoberfest website shares is scheduled to take place between September 17 to October 3, restored. Bavaria's Minister-President Markus Söder tweeted his support, writing: "A good signal, especially in difficult times. The Munich #Oktoberfest stands like no other folk festival for joie de vivre and cosmopolitanism. It is Bavaria's international flagship. I will be happy to go ..."

Oktoberfest has been canceled 26 times in its more than 200 year-long history, mostly during times of war.