from Ambergris Today:
Stores on Nine O’Clock Curfew!
Forget about getting your groceries after 9pm on the island. It would be much easier to purchase a pint of beer after nine than getting a pound of beans at the stores after Christmas, as a law that came into effect 40 years ago in Belize will all of a sudden be enforced on the island. According to Sergeant Irma Anderson, OIC of the San Pedro Police Department, the directive to enforce the law on the island came from Commissioner of Police, Jose Carmen Zetina, and Assistant Commissioner of Police, Maureen Leslie.
“The law has existed since before I was born,” Sgt. Irma Anderson told Ambergris Today. “The police will commence enforcing that particular law plus others existing on the island starting the 26th of December, the day after Christmas.”
This past weekend, San Pedro police started informing shop owners about the law, which no one was aware of. As far as the old folks on the island can remember, the law was observed on the island by shop owners back in the 1970’s, but since tourism started taking off during the 1980’s, the law practically became non-existent. Police did not enforce it, and shop owners forgot about it and kept their business opened until 10 or 11 o’clock at night. The sudden implementation of the shop law naturally caused a lot of concern amongst the shop owners of the island, who have been struggling with poor sales throughout the year and wanted to work the long hours for the busy Christmas season.
“I received a call from my boss this afternoon informing me to tell the shop owners that a temporary extension has been given to them to open after nine before Christmas Day,” OIC Irma Anderson told Ambergris Today, referring to call received from COMPOL Jose Carmen Zetina on Monday, December 13, 2004. “The day after Christmas (on December 26), police will start enforcing the law on the island.”
According to the substantive laws of Belize (Revised Edition 2000), Hours of Opening and Closing (Part III) Section 8-(1) “Save as otherwise provided in this Act, no shop shall be open for the serving of customers except between the hours of six o’clock in the morning and nine o’clock in the evening on any one day: Provided that nothing in this section shall prevent the serving, within half an hour after the closing hour, of any customer who was in a shop before the closing hour. (2) Nothing in this section shall extend to- (a) a hotel or a boarding house; or (b) premises licensed under the Intoxicating Liquor Licensing Act: Provided that only liquor or spirituous liquors, as defined in that Act, are offered for sale therein; or (c) the premises of a club registered under the Clubs (Registration) Act; or (d) any shop that is kept open solely for the purpose of the sale of- (i) medicines or drugs or medical or surgical appliances; or (ii) motor spirits and lubricants by retail; or (iii) refreshment for consumption on the premises, food cooked on the premises, bread and cakes, fresh meat, fresh fish, fresh vegetables, milk, eggs, ice, ices, ice cream, all kinds of non-alcoholic drinks, shaved or crushed ice with syrup or flavoring, confectionery, sweets, peanuts, cigarettes, cigars, tobacco and matches; or (iv) any newspaper or periodical.”
Reef Radio’s Early Morning talk show commented heavily on the enforcement of the shop law this Tuesday, with one hundred percent of the callers “seeing no reasoning behind” the sudden implementation of a “shop curfew”, which will greatly affect the sales of grocery shops, supermarkets, and gift shops on the island. Many workers on the island are also employed by the hotels and by the time they get off work, it is already past nine o’clock, and stores that are opened until 10 or 11 at night are very helpful to these workers. The implementation of the law will also greatly affect workers who depend on overtime pay, especially to make amends for the high-cost of living on the island.
“Whoever came up with this asinine idea to suddenly start implementing this law for the shops on the island should be locked up,” commented an angry shop owner, echoing the views of almost all the shop owners and residents of the island. “It is understandable to be disciplined and obey the law, but we must not only be educated, but reasonable. The law does not make any sense for this day and age, especially for a tourism-oriented town like San Pedro.”
Area Representative Manuel Heredia Jr., told Ambergris Today that residents should comply with the police orders, but should also get together with local authorities and petition the liable authorities for the shops to go back to their normal opening hours. For now, the law will start to be implemented after Christmas on the island, but everyone feels that the decision makes no sense whatsoever. There are much bigger issues and problems that the police need to tackle on the island, and the sale and purchase of a can of beans after nine o’clock is definitely not one of them.