Bar owners in Cuenca’s historic district are asking for a change to a 30-year-old ordinance that has been used to shut down eight bars and night clubs.
Last week’s closures were ordered under an ordinance adopted in 1985 that stipulates that bars and night clubs cannot be located in close proximity to churches, schools, hospitals, and markets, and must undergo an annual review by a historic district committee to determine their suitability to continue operating.
Franklin Villegas, president of the Historic District Bar and Restaurant Association, says that it is unfair to use the ordinance now since it has rarely been used in the past. “The rules need to be rewritten to accommodate today’s realities,” he said. “The way it’s being applied now it totally unfair.”
Association member and bar owner Cristian Carranza complains that the livelihoods of owners and employees are being taken away by the arbitrary application of an outdated law. “How can this be valid when it says that fines must be paid in Sucres. The Sucre hasn’t been Ecuador’s currency for 15 years,” Carranza said.
City councilman Marco Andres Avila agrees, and said that the Committee on Municipal Laws, on which he serves, will review what he called obsolete regulations.
“From our point of view, the ordinance is not valid in the way it is being applied,” Avila said. “We have discussed this concern with Mayor (Marcelo) Cabrera and are examining the validity of the ordinance.”
Nancy Quezada, director of Cuenca’s Historical & Heritage Areas Committee, argues that the ordinance, even though it needs revision, provides the legal basis for the closures. “We are responsible for the patrimonial integrity of the historic district as well as for the welfare of its residents,” she said. She also said that some of the closed bars were in violation of historic district business registration requirements. The ordinance requires that businesses be reviewed and their registration renewed annually.
“Although it needs to be revised, this ordinance is still in effect,” Quezada said. “It is the obligation of my office to make sure that the historic district is not overrun with bars and nightclubs that affect the neighbors and institutions,” she said. “We have continuing problems with high noise levels and public drinking near these businesses.”
Quezada said that there are 120 bars and nightclubs in the district. “I think that’s enough,” she said.
Photo credit: El Mercurio