ILOILO City – The lifting of the 2 a.m. alcohol curfew or its continued enforcement won’t really matter on the number of tourist arrivals here in the immediate future, according to Director Helen Catalbas of the Department of Tourism (DOT) in Western Visayas.
Executive Order (EO) 146 issued in December 2017 by then mayor Jose Espinosa III prohibited establishments from dispensing liquor beyond 2 a.m.
Mayor Jerry Treñas planned to repeal the EO. He said doing away with the alcohol curfew would boost the local tourism sector.
Catalbas, however, was ambivalent.
“I could not say if these evening-up-to-morning outings could, on their own, prompt tourists to include Iloilo City in their Philippine or Western Visayas itinerary unless these are packaged as add-ons to the present offering,” she said.
The regional tourism director also said establishments serving alcoholic drinks were demand-driven.
“They will close on their own with or without the 2 a.m. timeline if and when there are no customers or when there are very few customers not enough to sustain the overhead cost,” said Catalbas.
She, however, acknowledged that restaurants, shops and bars selling alcoholic beverages offered residents and visitors venues for evening leisure activities.
Catalbas suggested the conduct of massive consultations “before any move toward this direction is finalized.”
As to the effect of Treñas’ proposal to the city’s peace and order situation, Catalbas said this remained to be seen.
“(But) it goes without saying that everyone in the city, especially peace and order agencies, have to be doubly vigilant,” said Catalbas.
In issuing EO 146, Espinosa said he wanted to avert a breakdown of peace and order at night and early morning mostly caused by inebriated people.
Before he came out with the EO, a young man was shot dead at Smallville Complex, a popular strip of bars, restaurants, clubs, and hotels in Barangay San Rafael, Mandurriao district.
The business sector, however, was unenthusiastic of EO 146. In a previous interview, Iloilo Business Club executive director Lea Lara argued that the issue was primarily about responsible drinking. She wished that other options be explored because the city’s tourism industry may be adversely affected.
Restaurants and hotels – which almost always have bars – are among the local tourism industry’s key players.
Establishments covered by EO 146 – bars, nightclubs, restaurants – must set a time for receiving last orders from customers so as to meet the 2 a.m. curfew that stretches until 8 a.m.
But there are exemptions. These are the following:
* Department of Tourism-accredited resorts
* restaurants, provided they shall not sell nor serve nor dispense nor allow customers to drink within their premises from 2 a.m. until 8 a.m. on the same day, and
* convenience stores operating on a 24-hour basis, provided that such convenience stores may sell but shall not serve nor allow its customers to drink within its premises from 2 a.m. until 8 a.m. of the same day./PN