Cuba suspends new licenses for private eateries and warns of tighter control
By Abel Fernández
The Cuban government has temporarily suspended the issuance of new
licenses for private restaurants, popularly known as paladares, and has
intensified the scrutiny of those already operating in Havana, warning
owners that they must obey established regulations, Reuters reported Monday.
In the past six weeks, some owners of paladares have been summoned for
meetings with municipal government representatives in Havana and warned
about alleged violations being committed, such as tax evasion, buying
supplies on the black market or operating illegal bars.
Some of the private entrepreneurs who have taken part in these meetings
said they expect tighter controls on existing regulations and visits by
inspectors and auditors.
Cuban entrepreneur Niuris Higueras, owner of the popular Atelier
paladar, said she was called to a meeting at the municipal offices of
Havana's Poder Popular (People's Power), where representatives of
several state institutions, including the National Tax Administration
Office (ONAT) and police participated. The meeting, she said, gave her
peace of mind.
"I thought it was going to be very tense, but it was not," Higueras
said. "They were very communicative. They even told us that our
businesses are important to the economy and that there were
irregularities not only in private business, but in state-owned
businesses as well. Basically it was for everyone to know that they knew
there were illegal acts being committed.
"It's like they were issuing a fair warning," she said.
According to Higueras, some of the problems mentioned in the meeting
"are real." The authorities mentioned as major issues the use of public
parking to accommodate paladares customers, buying supplies on the black
market, tax violation and money laundering and even prostitution rings
and illegal drugs used in some places.
"These things are really happening," Higueras said."They are doing
inspections. I know that there will be more control."
According to Cuban law, private restaurants have a capacity limit of 50
seats and must buy supplies in state-owned stores, despite the high
price of the products sold by the government.
There are hundreds of paladares operating in Havana.
Some, like La Guarida, have become famous for being frequently visited
by U.S. celebrities, including Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, actress
Natalie Portman and singer Madonna. President Barack Obama and his
family had dinner at the San Cristóbal paladar during his visit to the
island in March.
The tightening of government measures to regulate the paladares comes as
the number of tourists visiting the island has increased exponentially.
Cuba recently reported that some 3 million tourists have visited the
country so far this year. The number of commercial flights to the island
from the United States also has increased: The number of U.S. visitors
to Cuba is expected to reach 300,000 by the end of the year.
Source: Cuba suspends new licenses for paladares and warns of tighter
control | In Cuba Today -