Multiplaza Escazú
Multiplaza Escazú

While government offices and state institutions like ICE, INS and AyA are closed this week, Semana Santa in Costa Rica is no longer synonymous with closed shops.

Retail stores, restaurants, cinemas and supermarkets nationwide now operate normally during Semana Santa (Easter Week), unlike years ago where most shops closed their doors to customers.

Semana Santa in the past meant planning ahead for groceries. Entertainment was limited. Bars and restaurants, mainly due to the Ley Seca (prohibition) were closed, except for those located in tourist areas and licensed by the Tourism Board (ICT) to operate during the dry days.

In 2014, the week of Monay April 14 to Wednesday April 16, it is business as usual. When it comes to retail stores, malls like Multiplaza, Lincoln Plaza, Paseo de la Flores, Terramall and others will operate normal business hours all week. Some stores, few, however, may close or may have special hours on Thursday April 17 and Friday April 18,  given that these two days are national holidays. Saturday April 19 and Sunday April 20 is back to normal hours.

Cinemas expect to do a boom business with openings of movies like Son of God and Noah (Hijo de Dios and Noé in Spanish).

The reasons for this change is due to several factors, including increased competition and culture.

Many retailers  and restaurants have, over time, found that staying closed was not good for business. Jorge Figueroa, president of the Cámara Costarricense de Restaurantes (Cacore) – Costa Rica’s chamber of restaurants – told La Nacion, that more restaurants found that they had customers if they were open.

Another factor is the changes in prohibition (Ley Seca or Dry Law). Today, local municipalities have the option to allow or not the flow of alcohol. This is a break in the past tradition of “closed” mandate by the central govenment.

While only a few years ago the “entire” country was dry on Thursday and Friday of Semana Santa, today, few municipalities are dry.

Also, less and less Ticos (Costa Ricans) practice Catholism, meaning more customers demanding an active trade during the holiday week.

Another change is that many do not have the entire week of, thus business like supermarkets, Walmart and Pricesmart, for example, must neet their needs to consume.

However, most professional offices, like doctors, accountants, lawyers, etc are closed. Best is to call ahead to confirm an appointment or make sure they are open for business before heading out.