For years, the city of San Juan has reveled in its reputation as a city that never sleeps. Its vibrant nightlife has become a magnet for those seeking to celebrate into the wee hours. However, Mayor Romero recently signed a municipal code that will alter the city’s party scene.

Mayor Romero made a morally guided decision to restrict alcohol sales. “I am morally convinced that this is the right thing to do,” Mayor Romero declared, underscoring his commitment to ushering in this change.

Restrictions Begin In November

Scheduled to take effect in November, the new code will cast its influence over restaurants and bars across San Juan. The deliberations leading up to this decision were anything but serene, marked by fervent debate. Businesses and locals, accustomed to the city’s lively nocturnal rhythms and decades of lenient regulations, vehemently criticized the new provisions. Notably, the rules do not extend to hotels and their patrons.

While the historic district, Old San Juan, celebrated the change with cautious optimism, the sense of transformation hung in the air. “The impression of San Juan is that anything goes,” observed Reinaldo Segurola, a 71-year-old resident. “It’s a mix between Disney and Las Vegas.”

San Juan’s Nightlife Scene Will Change

What attracts travelers to San Juan’s nightlife are the drinks in hand and listening to music in the streets. Businesses often keep their doors open until 5 a.m., catering to late-night partygoers. Even as dawn breaks, the merriment continues, with locations like the seaside community of La Perla welcoming those who wish to greet the sunrise in high spirits.

The New Regulations

The regulations dictate that alcohol sales can only take place from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. from Sunday to Thursday. Sales are permissible until 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday as well as on Sunday if Monday is a holiday.

Not everyone views this transformation favorably. Carlos Álvarez, who works at a cannabis store, stated that the code could spur the emergence of underground bars or make people party earlier.

Mayor Romero justifies the move by emphasizing its potential to reduce violence and noise. He committed to revising the code every six months if necessary, highlighting the fluid nature of the implementation.

“The more the code is complied with, the stronger the economy of San Juan, the stronger the tourism,” Mayor Romero explained, invoking a symbiotic relationship between responsible regulations and the city’s thriving tourism industry.

The backdrop to this change includes a series of recent incidents that have sparked the desire for change. A fatal shooting on Loiza Street claimed the lives of two NYU students who were vacationing in San Juan. Similarly, a confrontation at La Perla in Old San Juan led to the stabbing of three tourists from the mainland. Though such occurrences are relatively rare in Puerto Rico, they have fueled the call for tighter regulations.

Critics Disagree With Mayor’s Decision

Critics argue that the new rules could stifle an already recovering economy. Diana Font, president of the Association of Businesses of Old San Juan, expressed concerns about the economic impact, especially when businesses are still grappling with the repercussions of the pandemic and Hurricane Maria, which struck the island in 2017.

As the shift toward more regulated nightlife begins, questions about enforcement and cultural shifts abound. Reinaldo Segurola, who resides in the heart of Old San Juan, encapsulated the sentiment; Puerto Rico’s culture has long been characterized by a spirit of “drinking recklessly.” How this spirit adapts to the evolving landscape of San Juan’s nightlife remains to be seen.