Merchants in San Juan, Puerto Rico, have filed a claim in federal court to halt the implementation of a provision in the new San Juan Public Order Code that restricts the sale of alcoholic beverages. The merchants argue that the ordinance will not only reduce collections for the municipality but also for the central government. The claim includes the Fiscal Oversight Board as an interested party. The ultimate request is for the court to declare the limitation of hours for the sale of alcoholic beverages unconstitutional. The ordinance, which goes into effect on November 9, will limit the sale of alcoholic beverages until 1:00 am Monday through Friday and until 2:00 am on weekends and holiday Mondays. Hotels and motels are exempt from these limitations. The lawsuit alleges that the favorable treatment of hotels and businesses operating within them creates an unfair advantage for those establishments. The plaintiffs also argue that the municipal government will not be visiting hotels to ensure compliance with the hours limitation. If the court allows enforcement of the code, the affected businesses could face closure in just weeks. The merchants claim that the study commissioned by the municipality does not provide a rational basis for the prohibition and that the measure is a “hasty reaction” to a shooting incident that occurred earlier this year. The plaintiffs argue that the municipality already has existing tools to address issues such as noise levels and conduct of customers. The claim was filed by various merchant associations and individual business owners.
Merchants in San Juan Sue to Challenge Alcohol Sales Restriction in New Public Order Code