Restaurants that are licensed after 11 pm may continue to operate as long as customers have entered the space until that time. The guarantee is given to i by the secretary general of Ahresp when admitting that there have been “great confusions” in recent weeks, with the PSP forcing the owners to close their establishments, regardless of the time of their license. “The police have made a clean slate of all restaurants and there have been several complaints from restaurant owners who, despite being licensed to continue operating after 11 pm, are forced to close doors at this time. This is a result of the lack of clarity with which the resolutions and the respective implementations of them have come out. What is at stake is the entrance and from 11 pm no more customers can enter, but those inside can finish their meals without an hour limit, that is, until the time the establishment has to stay active ”, Says Ana Jacinto.
However, leave a note: these establishments can continue to operate as long as they do not become bars, which are not yet authorized to open (see page 4). “Ahresp has been confronted with situations in which establishments and terraces in the Metropolitan Area of Lisbon are ordered to close by security forces, due to ignorance of the law or due to misinterpretations about it”, he guarantees.
An opinion shared by João Teixeira, partner in the litigation area at Antas da Cunha ECIJA, admitting that the diplomas are complex to analyze and you enter a dark area that requires common sense. “What the resolution of the council of ministers says is that from 11 pm new customers cannot be admitted, but those inside the restaurants can naturally finish their meal. This is the rule. The owners will not close after 2am or 3am. What is normal to happen is that from midnight, with more or less margin, the spaces close. If we are going to toughen up and look at these standards without common sense, who’s going to a restaurant? And who can’t have dinner before 10:30 pm or 10:45 pm? It is that we are applying a law in a blind manner, damaging the economy, “says the lawyer to i, adding that” clients must have a reasonable time to finish their meal, make the payment with some tranquility. I would say that we have a range of 1h or 1h30 to make this happen at the most ”.
João Teixeira says that this clarification is now more urgent, since the contraordenacional regime has already come into force and the police can provisionally close a space. “From the point of view of the impact that this can have on the entrepreneur, it is terrible”.
I know that this has been a recurring practice mainly in Lisbon, with the police tightening the siege on restaurants without taking into account the time of their license and distributing information leaflets that, according to the sector association, are not enlightening ( see side column).
In view of this scenario, Ahresp has already asked the Ministry of Economy for clarification regarding this situation and had the following response. “The closing of the establishment at 11 pm means that no new customers can be admitted after that time, assuming, however, that the establishment can operate until the service provided to clients who have entered until 11 pm ends”, explains Association.
Ana Jacinto guarantees that, at this moment, there must be “common sense, training and better clarity” of the rules to avoid this type of situation.
The task is no longer simple in the case of take-away, home delivery and drive-ins. Here too, according to the official, there is “enormous confusion and there have been more and more frequent situations in which the police force the closure of these spaces after 8pm. For Ahresp, there is no doubt: “Catering establishments can operate in the take-away, home delivery and drive-in modalities without being subject to the 23-hour hourly limit, since this limit applies exclusively to new admissions for consumption in the establishment itself ”.
The same scenario is repeated on the terraces. And, once again, Ana Jacinto says that chaos is installed. “Complaints came to us that, on Friday, many restaurants with a terrace were forced by the police to close at 8 pm because they were serving alcoholic beverages, but those drinks were being served as part of a meal. It doesn’t make sense ”, refers to i. And he recalls: “The sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited, but as long as they are sold alone. If they are accompanied by a meal, they cannot be prohibited ”.
The confusion gains greater contours when it comes to pastries and snack bars that serve meals but, as they do not have catering CAE (code that frames the economic activity of companies), they cannot operate beyond 8 pm. “We have been encouraging the owners to have terraces, encouraging the owners to negotiate with the cameras on these spaces because it is considered safer for people to be on the street instead of being indoors. Many made these investments, but now they say that it is necessary to close at 20h. The owners are totally disoriented and this is chaotic for those who have a business ”, he adds to i.
For the sector association, there is no doubt: “An establishment that has a secondary CAE as an activity that can work and that clearly distinguishes itself from an activity forced to close, such as, for example, a traditional restaurant and bar can open the part from the traditional restaurant to serve meals. The same can no longer happen if the differentiation of activities is not evident (for example, bars that also serve snacks ”).
It is no longer the first time that the Prime Minister, António Costa, has come to guarantee that, if it is necessary to take steps backwards in the lack of definition, he will do so, but that he prefers to control the situation, considering that the best form of solidarity and recovery is all comply with the rules.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs has also been hinting at the idea of tightening security on the streets by security forces in order to comply with the rules and has already admitted that it can reinforce the police’s inspection capacity by calling in agents from other regions. The idea is to control alcohol consumption in open spaces accessible to the public and on public roads. Hence, supermarkets and hypermarkets cannot sell alcoholic beverages after 8 pm.