San José will not enforce alcohol dry law for Semana Santa

The Municipalidad de San José said Thursday that the so-called dry law will not be enforced in the central canton for Semana Santa.

That does not mean expats will have an easy time getting a cold beer next Thursday or Friday.

Several operators of watering holes frequented by expats are undecided as to what they will do. They had planned to close because the municipality had not announced its intentions. A new alcohol law gives the local governments the right to determine if the dry period will be enforced.

Cartago already said there will be no alcohol in that central canton Holy Thursday and Good Friday. The Municipalidad de Nicoya said it would not enforce the law.

San José quoted Marcelo Solano Ortiz, head of the Policía Municipal, saying that other laws would be enforced. These include a prohibition of drinking on the public street or in religious processions. The penalty is a fine of 157,000 colons, slightly more than $300.

The municipality also encouraged drinkers to do so in moderation in order to preserve the public order.

Until two years ago, municipal police and Fuerza Pública officers would show up at supermarkets, bars and restaurants the Wednesday night of Holy Week, Semana Santa. At supermarkets they would make sure the alcohol displays were covered, usually with a heavy, black plastic. They would apply municipal seals. At bars, they would put seals on the door to show no one could enter until Saturday morning. At restaurants that did a significant business in food, they would put seals on the refrigerators and cabinets that held alcohol.

Expat drinkers knew enough in those days to stock up on alcohol before the two-day dry law went into effect. Tourists, on the other hand, sometimes were surprised that alcohol only was available under the table. Tourism operators and bar owners had been complaining about the loss in income.

Economics figures in to the decision by bar owners who may or may not stay open those two days this year. Both Thursday and Friday are legal holidays, so employees will collect double pay if they work those days. If they do not, alcoholic beverages presumably will be available at supermarket outlets.

The law originated in an effort to respect the religious sensibilities during the week before Easter.

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