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Puerto Rico restaurant owners ask governor for more flexibility

The Puerto Rico Restaurants Association sent a letter to Gov. Wanda Vázquez asking her to ease the conditions under which they will operate after the current Executive Order restricting economic activity to curb the spread of COVID-19 expires on Aug. 15.

In the letter, the trade group — which represents about 4,500 local commercial establishments on the island, including fast-food restaurants, casual dining eateries, coffee shops, bakeries and inns — offers a list of alternatives “for the industry’s operation during this emergency.”

“In the past months restaurants have shown they can continue operating, following strict protocols and without putting the health of employees and diners at risk,” according to the letter signed by ASORE Executive Director Gadiel Lebrón.

So, in preparation for the possibility of a new scenario effective Aug. 16, the trade group recommends:

  • Basing the decision to open or shut down a specific industry on scientific or empirical data, to know which type of activity truly represents a source of contagion to adopt action plans accordingly;
  • Allowing the restaurant industry to open seven days a week until the established closing time;
  • Returning to full capacity at restaurants, as long as it allows the social distancing recommended by authorities;
  • Allowing the sale and consumption of alcohol to clients seated and eating inside restaurants, seven days a week, until the established closing time; and,
  • Maintaining the prohibition of gatherings of people outside the establishments.

The group’s request comes as Puerto Rico continues to experience a spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths. On Wednesday, the Puerto Rico Health Department reported eight deaths from COVID-19, 403 confirmed cases, and 186 additional probable cases. The total number of deaths reported so far on the island as of Aug. 12 was 295, while total confirmed cases were 10,169.

In recent weeks, several restaurants in Puerto Rico have had to close their establishments after detecting COVID-19 cases among employees, including the Metropol eatery and at least one McDonald’s location, according to published reports.

Prior to the onset of the pandemic, ASORE confirmed that Puerto Rico’s restaurant industry creates more than 62,000 direct and 40,000 indirect jobs annually. It generated nearly $3.9 billion annually for the island’s economy, 6.5% of the gross national product.

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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