The Ley Seca (Dry Law) in Costa Rica. While a small number of municipalities continue to apply the Dry Law, the majority keep their liquor, beer and wine flowing during the holidays

Q COSTA RICA – Semana Santa or Easter Week is around the corner and so are some local officials ready to keep their communities ‘dry’.

At least four municipalities – Belen and San Isidro, in Heredia; Leon Cortes, in San Jose and the Cartago centre – will apply the “Ley Seca” (dry law) for Samana Santa 2017.

The dry law will be in place on Thursday, April 13 and Friday, April 14.

So, far only the municipalities of San Carlos, Coto Brus, Escazú, Osa, Carrillo, Palmares, Moravia and Atenas has said they will allow the flow of alcohol, with more expected to make an announcement prior to the start of Semana Santa.

In the past, the Ley Seca was applied at a national level. A change to the legislation several years back gave municipalities the right to decide if liquor, wine and beer will flow within their jurisdictions on holidays and special events.

What does the Ley Seca mean?

In municipalities where the Ley Seca is applied all sales – in supermarkets, pulperias (corner stores), liquor stores, bars and restaurants  and any other business that is licensed to sell liquor, cannot for the two days.

At supermarkets, for example, they close off the liquor aisle and beer coolers taped shut. Bars may close and restaurants, for example, will lock up the liquor or seal off the beer coolers and wine dispensers.

Local inspectors are on hand to ensure compliance.

Businesses who do not comply with the ‘dry law’ can be fined up to 10 base salaries and could see their businesses shut down and possibly have their licenses revoked.

Years back, when the Ley Seca applied nationally, the Fuerza Publica (national police force) would, on the even of the holiday, begin the process of ‘sealing’ up establishments. A special tape, with an official seal, would either be placed across the doors of a business, like a bar that only sold liquor or on coolers and storage areas in places like restaurants.

Although the Ley Seca would not be in effect until 12:01am of the day, in many cases police arrived early and the ‘dry law’ was in effect once they placed the tape.


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