Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico Responds to Disaster Stupidly by Banning Alcohol Sales

Governor's decree makes recovery even harder for bar owners.

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La Taberna Lupulo
La Taberna Lupulo/Facebook

Puerto Rico is suffering on a massive scale in the wake of Hurricane Maria earlier this month.

Eighty percent of the nation's food crops were destroyed by the storm. Losses on the island total in the tens of billions of dollars. Aid has reached the country, but not yet those in need. Some 10,000 shipping containers filled with food, water, and other supplies are sitting at the country's main port due to a combination of damaged roads, fuel shortages, and the absence of many truck drivers.

There has been some good news amidst the bad. Many companies have donated to hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico. And the Trump administration temporarily waived the Jones Act, a dumb 1920 law that restricts which boats may ship to the island.

I love Puerto Rico. My girlfriend and I spent a couple weeks in the country to celebrate our 20th anniversary in 2013. We began and ended our journey in San Juan, visiting cities and towns all around the island in between by car.

Our trip was almost perfect. Except for the plodding, mean motorcycle gang that went to great lengths to make sure I couldn't pass them on the highway, the people were uniformly great. Except for being bitten by a random fish, the beaches and water were wonderful.

And except for the mofongo—I typically love plantains, but I don't get mofongo one bit—the food was amazing. I ate what might be the world's best roast pork at a little roadside joint outside of Luquillo.

What I may remember most about Puerto Rico is that there are so many great bars across the island to sit down and chat with the locals. My favorite bar on the island, without a doubt, was La Taberna Lúpulo in Old San Juan, a friendly, breezy, 50-tap space in an old colonial building that bills itself as Puerto Rico's premier craft beer bar (though they also have a great selection of rum).

I've followed La Taberna Lúpulo on Facebook since. I noted their preparations for Hurricane Irma, and was happy to see—save for a power outage and a downed tree or two outside—that they'd made it through that hurricane relatively unscathed.

Like the rest of Puerto Rico, though, La Taberna Lúpulo is struggling to get by after the island was slammed by Hurricane Maria. The bar has no water or electricity.

But that's just the half of it. The bar also has had no way to make money, thanks to a curfew and to a bizarre decision by Ricardo Rosselló, Puerto Rico's governor, to prohibit most alcohol sales on the island. Indefinitely.

"We tried to open in a limited capacity but between the curfew, the dry law and the inability to get fuel, we found it hard to staff the bar and impossible to justify being open as anything other than a meeting spot for folks who had nothing to do but wander the streets looking to share stories," they posted on Facebook this week. "In short, we were hemorrhaging money."

Penalties for violating the alcohol ban were steep: six months loss of license to sell alcohol. Several bars on the island were punished for ignoring the ban.

"No establishment can sell alcohol during the emergency," the public affairs ministry declared.

Well, not quite. The alcohol ban isn't absolute. Hotels—including those a short stroll from La Taberna Lúpulo in Old San Juan—can still serve alcohol without restrictions.

"Somehow they are allowed to serve beer while we, less than a block away in some places, are not," Lúpulo lamented in the bar's most recent Facebook post. "Doesn't seem fair, but it's the law. We hope it doesn't lead to our insolvency, but short time will tell."

That's rubbish. The curfew may or may not be necessary. But a discriminatory alcohol sales ban has no legitimate justification.

After a disaster, people need spaces like La Taberna Lúpulo to help them get back on their feet. We've seen the vital role that bars and restaurants have played in places like post-Katrina New Orleans and post-9/11 New York City. As I discussed in a 2012 law-review article, bars in particular have a long and vibrant history in this country as gathering spaces that facilitate not just drinking but, also, important dialogue of the sort that occurs no place else.

To recover, we need bars like these. Thankfully, just as I was wrapping up this column, I got some good news from my leading Puerto Rican news source: La Taberna Lúpulo's Facebook feed. The governor lifted the alcohol ban and narrowed the curfew. Lúpulo is back open for business. I wish them and all of Puerto Rico a speedy, complete, and booze-aided recovery.

NEXT: With Bombardier Tariffs, Trump Continues His Protectionist Mania

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  1. My girlfriend and I spent a couple weeks in the country to celebrate our 20th anniversary in 2013.

    Put a ring on it, Linnekin.

    As for the alcohol ban, look, natural disasters are a great time to float trial balloons. You have something approaching martial law, you get to try on your big boy authoritarian pants. So this ban didn’t work out. You never know until you try.

    1. Put a ring on it, Linnekin.

      Why?

      1. Up in the club, just broke up
        I’m doing my own little thing
        You decided to dip and now you wanna trip
        ‘Cause another brother noticed me
        I’m up on him, he up on me
        Don’t pay him any attention
        ‘Cause I cried my tears for three good years
        You can’t be mad at me

        That’s why.

        1. Or maybe his girlfriend is keeping her options open?

          1. Linnekin’s being cucked? How can I take his posts seriously now?

            1. I’m making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it was all true and has totally changed my life.

              This is what I do… http://www.startonlinejob.com

  2. “Sir, we have reports of a major earthquake and tsunami hitting most of the island!”
    “My God! Quick, resegregate the schools and arrest anyone who criticizes declaring war on Germany! It’s our only hope!”

  3. As a Floridian, I don’t want to live in a world where I can’t go to a bar before and after a hurricane. OBTW, that bar in the pic: I need to be in it.

  4. The important thing about this is that Trump insulted the Mayor of San Juan. I know this because I read HuffPo and CNN. That’s the top story.

    1. CNN:

      Trump attacks San Juan mayor over hurricane response

      5 top headline stories about this kerfuffle and criticizing the administration. It dominates their front page.

      HuffPo:

      Nasty: Trump Picks Fight With San Juan Mayor

      3 top articles critical of administration on this topic, Their number two headline:

      Lin-Manuel Miranda To Trump: ‘You’re Going Straight To Hell’ For Blasting San Juan Mayor

      The left desperately, desperately wants another Bush/New Orleans moment. With 3 major hurricanes in a month, they probably are going to be able to find some resources stretched thin.

  5. An actual libertarian moment… maybe even an anarchist moment.

    Elon Musk’s address yesterday contained multiple “mike drop” moments. If that guy was actually a dynamic (or even decent) public speaker, he might rupture the space time continuum.

    After listening to breathless coverage of President Obama’s bold plan to get people to mars by the late 2030’s or early 2040’s (after having killed the Mars program in his first term), Elon and team went back to the office and found a way to do it themselves. His aspiratioal goal: Landing 2 giant cargo ships on Mars in 2022 and 2 manned missions in 2024. And he laid out a plan that allows him to pay for it himself.

    Holy crap.

    The new ship he announced (the BFR) will take 150 tons to LEO…. for less cost than the tiny Falcon 1 that never flew a commercial mission. It replaces all of their rockets…. and pretty much all of the space launch industry if true.

    That’s mike drop number two….

    Then he speculates about a possible transportation service. A spacecraft with more capacity than an A380 that can fly any route on earth in basically 30 minutes or less. And he claims competitive costs with the airline industry.

    Mike drop # 3.

    That dude knows how to dream big.

    1. He certainly can dream out loud at lots of people. Many of them hurl their wallets toward him afterward.

    2. And he laid out a plan that allows him to pay for it himself.

      Nothing he does, does he pay for himself. *Your* still paying for it.

      1. Yeah, the guy is extremely talented.
        At picking the taxpayers’ pockets.

        1. Yeah, he’s managed to haul in quite a bit of subsidies in his time.

          But you also have to factor in stuff like this:

          Boeing will receive $4.2 billion to build the CST-100 spacecraft, which it has been working on since the initial phases of NASA’s commercial crew program in 2010. The spacecraft will be launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.
          “The CST-100 offers NASA the most cost-effective, safe and innovative solution to U.S.-based access to low-Earth orbit.

          SpaceX will receive $2.6 billion to build its Dragon V2 spacecraft, an upgraded version of the Dragon spacecraft currently used to transport cargo to and from the ISS. Dragon V2 will launch on the company’s Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket.

          So SpaceX is going to do the same job for 1.6 billion less than Boeing. And that’s just one project… and it pretty much pays for the other subsidies by itself.

          Then you have this from the air force:

          “They have forced us ? and I mean forced us ? to get better, infinitely better, at what we do,” he said. “We are adopting commercial business practices and becom[ing] more efficient and more affordable.

          “Working with them, we have been able to reduce our main launch footprint by 60 percent and reduce the cost of a single launch by over 50 percent,”

          1. To put it in a little more perspective of just how much slop the piggies get to slurp up at the trough…

            The United Launch Alliance pulls in nearly a billion dollars a year from a contract for “Launch Readiness’, meaning they are being paid to maintain the ability to launch rockets.

            Putting that into further perspective, that would equal about 13 launches on a Falcon 9 at list prices. Before SpaceX started really moving fast this year, the US was launching about 20 rockets per year, total. In 2016 the US launched 22 rockets, 8 by spacex. So just the subsidy to the ULA would have covered moving all of their launches to SpaceX. That doesn’t include the cost of the ULA launches, which are on top of the readiness subsidy.

            In just one year of using their launch services for spy satellites, we will recover everything we’ve ever given them in savings over the competition.

            So it is a rare case where a little subsidy and a couple of government contracts actually wound up saving the taxpayers a ton of money.

          2. I’d prefer that he didn’t take those subsidies, but I also realize that his result are a world away from the Solyndras of the world, so I honestly can’t be too mad (especially when he takes the leftovers from one breakthrough and spins them off into another breakthrough, and those leftovers into another, and…).

    3. Elon Musk is each of us sitting in a cardboard box labelled “ROCKET” at age eight.

    4. It takes a supremely arrogant man to break with all known traditions and plan to do something totally outrageous that pushes human achievement forward kicking and screaming into the future!
      Musk is that man, and he deserves praise for the ostentatious willingness to break all boundaries in pursuit of advancement. Duck yah!

  6. An actual libertarian moment… maybe even an anarchist moment.

    Elon Musk’s address yesterday contained multiple “mike drop” moments. If that guy was actually a dynamic (or even decent) public speaker, he might rupture the space time continuum.

    After listening to breathless coverage of President Obama’s bold plan to get people to mars by the late 2030’s or early 2040’s (after having killed the Mars program in his first term), Elon and team went back to the office and found a way to do it themselves. His aspiratioal goal: Landing 2 giant cargo ships on Mars in 2022 and 2 manned missions in 2024. And he laid out a plan that allows him to pay for it himself.

    Holy crap.

    The new ship he announced (the BFR) will take 150 tons to LEO…. for less cost than the tiny Falcon 1 that never flew a commercial mission. It replaces all of their rockets…. and pretty much all of the space launch industry if true.

    That’s mike drop number two….

    Then he speculates about a possible transportation service. A spacecraft with more capacity than an A380 that can fly any route on earth in basically 30 minutes or less. And he claims competitive costs with the airline industry.

    Mike drop # 3.

    That dude knows how to dream big.

  7. Your homes are in shambles and your lives have changed forever. How dare you try to bring back a little normalcy by drinking some rum or beer, citizen.

    1. The economy there will never recover until the locals are forced by circumstance to start distilling moonshine!

    2. Herbert Hoover tried to force Puerto Rico to enforce national prohibition in 1930 and insular courts refused. Dry Hope Hoover has finally prevailed over Borinken. The gubner’s Progresista party is hot to jail everyone for beer, plants, gay couples, and define Lateran Treaty school uniforms. It preaches collectivized rights and eliminates individual rights. Their platform contains “derechos” 57 times–in every case referring to collectivism, Catholic Sharia Law, and (get this!) customs tariffs. The hurricane was clearly God’s punishment for Christian socialist superstition to the point of psychosis.

  8. “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

    1. “I’m from the government and I’m here to make you helpless.”

    2. “I’m here to rescue you! Look, I’ve got your R2-unit and I’m here with Ben Kenobi!”

  9. A quick google news search shows several mentions of the ban or the ban being lifted but none mentioning what justification was given for the ban in the first place. Are Puerto Ricans known for getting drunk and going on looting sprees or something? If you can’t get clean water, beer sounds like a good alternative so why would you cut off that source of a clean drink? Back in the olden days before public water systems, nobody drank the water, they all drank beer and ale and wine and alcoholic concoctions of one sort or another because the alcohol helped kill the germs even if they didn’t know that. I could see maybe the “good intentions” thing, people shouldn’t be spending time and effort and money getting the alcohol trade back up and running when they could better use that time and effort and money getting more necessary infrastructure back up and running but what about the people who depend on the trade for their livelihoods? And what about people who aren’t communists who think it’s not proper for the government to enact what’s essentially a slavery bill demanding that everybody needs to set aside their own personal interests and work for the common good – with the government of course deciding what’s for the common good.

    1. I could see maybe the “good intentions” thing, people shouldn’t be spending time and effort and money getting the alcohol trade back up and running when they could better use that time and effort and money getting more necessary infrastructure back up and running…

      Except that’s the mantra of every central government ever. “We’ll do the important stuff first, then we’ll produce consumer goods and it will be time for the worker’s paradise.” Then, every time, they screw up the important stuff and never get around to the “unimportant stuff” like beer and toilet paper.

  10. By the way, one of the biggest stories going on in the world right now is that the people of Catalonia want to have a referendum to vote on independence from Spain tomorrow, and the Spanish government is using force to try to prevent this vote from taking place!

    You would barely even know this is happening though if you only pay attention to the standard outlets of the so-called mainstream media, including the fugazi joke “libertarians” here at Reason.

    I guess they’re so afflicted with Trump Derangement Syndrome they either don’t either know that this is going on, or they’re flummoxed because they just can’t figure out how to blame the situation on the Trumpmonster.

    1. Does Reason normally have a lot of international news?

    2. Yeah, pretty huge news. The headline I noticed was “millions of ballots seized”.

      1. “millions of ballots seized”

        SPROIIIINNNG!

        /sound of world leaders having erections

      2. I’ve had it on my news feeds. The Catalan flag looks like a bizarre combination of the Puerto Rican and Venezuelan flags.

    3. “I guess they’re so afflicted with Trump Derangement Syndrome they either don’t either know that this is going on, or they’re flummoxed because they just can’t figure out how to blame the situation on the Trumpmonster.”

      Or maybe you’re an idiot:
      ‘Spain’s Crackdown in Catalonia Won’t Stop the Push for Self-Determination’
      https://reason.co m/blog/2017/09/21/spains-crac kdown-on-catalonian-referendu

      1. Look…. Trump said something insulting about the way the Mayor of San Juan is running the hurricane recovery.

        Really, what’s more important here? Jackboots seizing ballots, or an insulting tweet?

        1. I’m reminded of the interview with Ben Rhodes at the tail end of the Obama Administration, where he made the telling remark about how all the journalists who they dealt with now were twenty-somethings in NY and DC who had never been elsewhere in the country much less in the world, who didn’t know how to do proper research and looked to the Administration to tell them what the stories they were supposed to cover were. It’s like that still, except the press literally doesn’t know what’s supposed to be news unless it shows up in Trump’s Twitter feed.

      2. They prolly found translations of George Orwell’s “Homage to Catalonia” and realized it was an early draft of “1984.” Portugal, right next door, has completely decriminalized all manner of vegetable products and Europeans are flocking to make deposits in Portuguese banks to avoid asset-forfeiture looting. But Catalu?a is on the opposite side from Portugal, so annexation does not look like an option.

  11. How does the governor have these dictatorial powers?

    1. Because the Emperor has dissolved the Senate permanently, such that fear will now keep the local systems in line?

      1. But won’t tightening their grip cause more Caribbean islands to slip through their fingers?

        Especially since Emperor Obalpatine cancelled the Death Star project?

  12. [Caribbean music]

    If you want pina colada…
    Too fucking bad, that’s only for the tourists.

  13. Puerto Rico is a country now?

    1. Has been for a long time. I’d argue longer than the United States anyway.

    2. The writer also calls it a “nation.”

      I hear people are upset with Trump’s response to the Puerto Rico situation. Maybe he just doesn’t know it’s a US territory.

  14. In his book NEWSPAPER DAYS, H. L. Mencken writes of his experience covering a major city fire’s aftermath somewhere in Florida. One major thread of the tale is the consternation of the Governor upon discovering that the State of Maryland has included in its relief shipment a dozen cases of whiskey. Mencken shares this alarm, since the militia is out and he shares with the Governor a vision of a ‘military drunk’ on a scale with Sherman’s torching Atlanta.

    Maybe the Governor of PR knows his constituency better than we do. Maybe he has REASON to not want them getting blotto.

  15. According to this:

    “The governor also said he would shorten the nightly curfew by three hours, requiring people to be off the streets by 9 p.m. instead of 7 p.m., and would end a ban on alcohol sales that was in place since before the storm.”

    1. And you believe a news story that thinks there are 3 hours between 7 and 9 pm? I wouldn’t count on their fact checking!

      1. If they could do math they wouldn’t be lamestream media journalists, would they?

        1. Anyway, I dunno, maybe the curfew was modified to give two extra hours at night and an extra hour in the morning?

      2. Two actual hours plus an hour of commercials?

  16. Hey Baylen,

    What kind of psychotic narcissistic douch responds to human suffering by bitching about he they are being persecuted? Boy, the gall, hunh.

    Douche President on Twitter: “The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump.

  17. Let’s try it again…

    Hey Baylen,

    What kind of psychotic narcissistic douche responds to human suffering by bitching about how they are being persecuted? Boy, the gall, hunh.

    Douche President on Twitter: “The Mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago, has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump.

    1. Did you just Grammar-Nazi yourself?

      “This thread deserves a better class of troll. And I’m gonna give it to ’em.”

      1. I’m not a troll and I’m just trying to put my best foot forward. My mission here isn’t like the other right-wingers here– that is, to complain about the college kids on campus these days. It’s to talk about how this government sucks ass.

        1. Fuck off, troll…

        2. Eg, “complain about the OFWGs currently running and supporting the government”. Eg the left-wing mirrorverse version of our resident right-wingers’ “complain about the SJWs until recently running and supporting the government” trolling.

          Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in either case. But honesty about who and what you are is an important part of a well-balanced troll’s diet.

        3. Robespierre Josef Stalin|9.30.17 @ 4:08PM|#
          “I’m not a troll and I’m just trying to put my best foot forward.:”
          You’re a lying piece of shit.
          Fuck off, slaver.

  18. 20th anniversary! And she’s still just your girlfriend! Go back to Puerto Rico, buy a ring and make an honest woman of her already! Jiminy!

  19. “I ate what might be the world’s best roast pork at a little roadside joint outside of Luquillo.”
    Hey Baylen, I hate to break it to you but that “world’s best pork” was probably dog meat.

    Many Puerto Ricans use dog meat for “pinchos” at the pinchos stands.

  20. I haven’t followed it closely enough to know if Trump has made any decisions that have hampered the relief effort, and he shouldn’t be an ass about a little criticism. However, my sympathy for their situation doesn’t extend far enough to not notice that Puerto Rico seems to have just discovered that the federal government is inefficient.

  21. Wow! Your home is destroyed and the country’s infrastructure has been reduced to rubble. If there was ever a time in your life when you needed a cold beer, this would be one of those. No wonder the corrupt liberal and incompetent leadership of Puerto Rico has it more than $70 billion dollars in debt. Passing rules such as “no alcohol” is just another one of their prize-winning decisions.

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