The Cuenca Emergency Operations Committee has authorized the reopening of bars and discotheques beginning October 6. In addition, other businesses that serve alcoholic beverages that are classified as “entertainment centers”, including game rooms and licensed brothels, will be allowed to reopen. All have been closed since March of 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the COE, the bars and entertainment centers will be closely monitored by health officials to make sure they maintain and enforce biosafety protocols. The establishments will be limited to 50 percent capacity and required to show proof of adequate cross-ventilation and have carbon dioxide monitoring devices installed. Until further notice, dance floors will remain closed.
According to business owners who plan to reopen, it is unclear how many bars and discos are still in business. “Not many of us were able to pay the rent and utilities during the emergency so I’m not sure who will be opening,” says Enrique Andrade, owner of Below Bar Disco, in the El Vado sector. “We had no help from the government during the lockdown and many owners were forced to close and find other work.”
On the other hand, says Andrade, many of the former bars will open with new owners. “The landlords were not able to rent their property so the locations have sat vacant for all these months and since the locations are set up as bars, a lot of them will attract new tenants.”
Lasso wants to cut VAT for some products
As part of his economic revitalization plan, President Guillermo Lasso is proposing the elimination of the 12 percent value added tax for a number of products and services. His office provided a list Friday but said more items could be added.
The list includes: hotel lodging for tourists; baby diapers and baby care products; face masks; alcoholic beverages; antibacterial gels; female hygiene products; wet wipes; electric vehicles for public transportation and charging services; hybrid and electric vehicle batteries and charging equipment.
Unauthorized parking guards and windshield washers targeted
Following an increasing number of complaints from motorists, the Cuenca transit authority says it is looking for ways to control the spread of informal parking guards and intersection windshield washers, or “flannelers.” Complaints report cases of guards damaging parked cars when drivers refuse to pay and of flannelers smearing soap on windshields.
“We are considering our legal options in controlling this problem,” says Juan Carlos Aguirre, general manager of EMOV. “The guards and flannelers do not have permission to operate on public streets but they have been tolerated for years when their numbers were small. Unfortunately, their numbers are growing due to economic conditions.”
Typically, the guards are paid 25 to 50 cents for their services of directing drivers into parking spots and for protecting the vehicles while owners are away. “The problem comes when there are threats that cars will not be protected if owners don’t pay,” he says. He adds that the windshield washers are more of a nuisance and pose the biggest problem by holding up traffic.
City councilman Diego Morales, president of the city’s Mobility Commission, is advising that EMOV consider the extreme economic hardship when dealing with the guards. “We have an informal policy of going easy on street vendors due to the pandemic and I suggest we do the same with the parking managers.”
Track the tram
Beginning last week, riders of Cuenca’s tram can check Google Maps to find out how long it will take for the train to arrival at the platform and what time they can expect to arrive at their destination. The feature was added on Wednesday, the first anniversary of tram service. To get the time and distance information for tram trips, users must click on the Google Map “Directions” tab.