Baguio night clubs, bars fear shutdown by 2020
BAGUIO CITY –– Night club and bar operators on Friday (Aug. 23) said 95 percent of over 400 establishments serving liquor near parks or churches in the summer capital would have to stop operating by January 2020 unless the city government amends its zoning ordinance.
Only five percent or about 20 bars located in Baguio’s central business district would be spared from a provision of the Baguio law that prohibits the operation of bars within 50 lineal meters of city parks, schools, religious structures, and government offices or buildings, said Allan Bandoy, president of the Baguio Association of Bars and Entertainment Society (BABES).
The ordinance that was amended in 2016 also prevents entertainment places like dance clubs from operating 100 meters from these public places, he said.
Mayor Benjamin Magalong had shut down 37 bars and nightspots for violating the zoning law, for falsely registering as other types of enterprises or for breaking sanitation and peace and order regulations.
Bandoy claimed that high-end lounge bars and videoke bars were allowed to operate near restricted public places because the Baguio government used to be more flexible.
A popular bar was closed three weeks ago when the city government measured its distance from the city’s Rizal Park “using a straight line,” shocking the owners “who spent millions in renovation expenses,” he said during a news conference.
This bar had been operating because some licensing officers enforced the law by circling the park to its entrance to measure its distance from the establishment’s doorstep, Bandoy said.
BABES had asked Magalong to reopen the bars and allow them to operate until the end of the year, after drawing up a 10-point manifesto promising to report instances of drug trafficking in their establishments, protect drunk clients especially female customers, and make sure their places are clean.
Magalong on Saturday (Aug. 24) said he may reconsider, but the City Council must address the bars’ issues regarding the zoning ordinance.
He said the city government must be sensitive to the community’s safety and security which are ensured by zoning rules.
The mayor’s strict enforcement of the ordinances caught the bar and entertainment industry off guard, Bandoy admitted.
He said entrepreneurs like him were aware of the ordinances but operated in good faith when previous Baguio administrations for the past 25 years issued permits to their businesses. Many of them have since expanded their businesses or have put up buildings, Bandoy said.
Should the zoning code remain unchanged, bar owners may relocate outside Baguio, and displace about 4,000 employees, Bandoy said. Some of the workers were hired despite their educational and social backgrounds.
“We are the ones who employ workers who did not complete elementary or high school education,” he claimed./lzb
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