October 2006 Issue: It’s Only 1 O’Clock! Where’s Everyone Going?

On the 2nd of August 2004, the Guatemalan party scene was dealt aoctober06 deathblow. That was the date that the Dry Law (La Ley Seca) came into effect, and it became illegal to sell alcohol between 1 and 7am, except on special holidays.

The official reason was that it was to reduce street crime, but now, over two years later, we haven’t seen any great change in crime statistics.

Maybe the criminals we really have to worry about are out smoking crack on street corners and cruising around in hotted up cars, instead of dancing the night away in some discoteca.

Now, anybody who’s been keeping an eye on the prohibition issue over the last, say, 500 years can tell you what happens when you prohibit a product that is in demand. The Black Market steps in.

And that’s exactly what did happen. “After Parties” sprang up all over town – some so brazen that they openly advertised. At first, the bars just locked their doors and let people stay, but then private houses started opening up – clandestine bars that opened at 1am. Fire exits? Security Staff? Sanitation Control? Taxes paid?

Um, no.

So, now the question came as to how these places could operate outside of the law so freely, and the answer was obvious and natural: money was changing hands.

And the irony of all this is that the official police line is that, being that everybody’s theoretically in bed by say, 1:30, we only need a token police presence on the streets between 2 and 7am.

So there you have it, folks. The cops won’t close down the after parties, nor will they be patrolling the streets when people are leaving those parties at 3, 4 or 5 in the morning.

And that doesn’t sound like a recipe for disaster at all.

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