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Casinos, restaurants ask gov’t to ease pandemic restrictions

As the current Executive Order in place by the government imposing restrictions on the population and businesses is set to expire on Friday, representatives from Puerto Rico’s casino and restaurant industries have asked for an easing up of conditions they say are putting operations and employees at risk.

During a news conference, casino industry executives urged Gov. Wanda Vázquez to allow the gaming establishments — which have been closed since mid-March with the exception of two weeks in July — to go back online, saying 3,000 jobs and $150 million in government revenue are on the line.

A total of 15 casino owners and operators came together to say that another 80,000 tourism industry jobs have also been affected by the closing.

“The outlook is even bleaker given the reality that many of those people who had to be laid off in March and again in July, have not yet received their unemployment benefits, lacking income to support their families,” the group said in a joint statement.

The El Tropical Casino, Hyatt Place Bayamón, the Mayagüez Resort & Casino, PRISA Group, International Hospitality Group, the Paradise Island Casino, Mayagüez Resort & Casino, the San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, the Costa Bahía Hotel, the Casino Real, Four Points by Sheraton Caguas Real Hotel & Casino, the Casino Del Sol, Courtyard By Marriott Isla Verde, the Casino Atlántico, Hyatt Place Manatí, the Casino Metro, Sheraton Puerto Rico, Empresas Santana, Sheraton Puerto Rico, the San Juan Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, the Wyndham Grand Rio Mar Beach Resort & Spa, the El Tropical Casino, Holiday Inn Mayagüez & Tropical Casino, the Casino de la Plaza, Ponce Plaza Hotel and Casino, the Ocean Casino, Courtyard By Marriott Aguadilla, HI Development Puerto Rico, the El Tropical Casino, Holiday Inn Ponce & Tropical Casino, MB Muñoz Holdings, the Casino Del Mar, La Concha A Renaissance Resort. And the Oasis Casino, Embassy Suites San Juan Hotel & Casino were represented.

“Decisions to shut down casino operations have been unfounded, and without having evaluated all the rigorous and strict measures this group has taken,” the executives said, showing through a series of videos the security measures they have implemented to fight COVID-19. Each casino invested about $100,000 to establish the protocols.

Ismael Vega, general manager of the Casino Metro said casinos have lost $23 million in monthly revenue, while each facility is spending an average of $200,000 a month each in operational costs — power, water, cleaning and other services — to maintain the closed facilities.

Restaurants also want to fully reopen
Meanwhile, the Puerto Rico Restaurants Association (ASORE, in Spanish) sent a letter to Vázquez, asking to let them: Reopen on Sundays; extend operating hours from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.; increase dining room capacity to 75% — from the current 25%; increase capacity on terraces or outside areas to 100%; eliminate the ban on selling alcoholic beverages on Sundays so that drinks may be sold seven days a week to clients consuming in the restaurants.

“Restaurants have certainly shown that they can continue to operate, following strict protocols and without putting the health of employees and diners at risk,” said ASORE President Gadiel Lebrón.

“As an Association, we’ve continued to guide our partners, and the industry in general, on the necessary measures to operate restaurants in the midst of this pandemic,” he said. “We’ve witnessed the great efforts that restaurants are making to maintain their operations. For this reason, it is vitally important that the government offers the necessary financial support to help the stability of the industry.”

Author Details
Business reporter with 25 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other areas of the economy.

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