Drink up: Alcohol sales forbidden after 10pm

By Freek Huigen December 15, 2020

Colombia enforces controls on alcohol sales as intensive care occupation rises.

No more alcohol after 10pm, new coronavirus measure in parts of Colombia. Photo: Jared Wade

Starting tonight, new rules mean that bars and restaurants in certain parts of Colombia, including Bogotá, will have to stop selling alcohol at 10 pm. 

Many countries in Europe and parts of the United States are re-implementing heavy quarantine measures to try to slow new outbreaks of the virus. For the most part, Bogotá, which was locked down from mid-March to September, has adapted to the biosecurity measures without additional restrictions.

However, Bogotá, along with 12 other areas, will now ban alcohol sales after 10 pm in an attempt to stop a rise in COVID-19 cases. The rules will also apply to Norte de Santander, Valle del Cauca, Antioquia, Quindío, Risaralda, Tolima, Caldas, Nariño, Santander, Casanare, Bolívar and Cauca.

Read all our coverage on the coronavirus in Colombia

A regulation passed today by the Ministry of the Interior and Ministry of Health restricts alcohol sales and consumption in areas where the intensive care occupancy is above 70% — or less in metropolitan areas like Bogotá. 

Authorities are nervous because occupancy in the roughly 11,300 intensive care beds has been rising. Currently, the occupancy rate nationwide is 57%. 

According to a decree from the mayor’s office, intensive care occupancy in Bogotá hovered around 48% between the end of September and the end of November. In the last 16 days, however, it has increased to almost 53%, which is why authorities are introducing new measures.

Cali has gone even further. It’s just issued a red alert and reintroduced pico y cédula restrictions. The city, which reports a 90.5% intensive care occupancy has also announced ley seca (prohibition of alcohol sales) and a curfew. 

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The controls on alcohol sales will be revisited on December 21.

The new restrictions come just one day after Congress passed a tourism bill, aimed at reactivating the entertainment sector. The bill gives tax breaks to bars and restaurants and is now awaiting presidential approval. These businesses were particularly hard hit by Colombia’s long lockdown, and will still be hoping to recoup some of their losses — albeit in a socially distanced way — during the festive season.