Sunday, 20 January 2013

Midnight curfew laws - Lagos, Algarve - Pt. II

B was at the meeting on Thursday night in person.

Despite erroneous figures in the local press, the Lagos Cultural Centre Auditorium was full. (289 persons). At least, and estimated further +100 persons could not get in! Indeed, as a result a Round 3 public session has been organised in the same venue for 21:00, Tuesday night, 22 January 2013.

It was interesting to not that there was a substantial uniformed police presence as well as (off-duty police?) rather large gentleman of a security nature manning the doors.

The session began with the President of the Council making a 25 minute presentation about the proposed changes to the law concerning the licensing of bars, cafes, restaurants and other establishments. From the beginning, it appeared that the council has been shocked by the force of reaction, from not just the business community, but also the local community at large. Many local resident expats were present.

At one point, when the President started talking about a long standing desire to promote Lagos as a "Quality Tourism" destination, the auditorium burst into hysterical laughter.

What was very clear from subsequent discourse is that the Câmara Municipal of Lagos, at all levels, really has absolutely no understanding of the profile of its own tourism industry, its importance to the city, and how it integrates into the regional Algarve and national tourism industry.

There is a total disconnect between the town elders and administration and the reality of life in the council area. An example of this was raised by a representative of the local cafe owners who pointed out that the new regulations would not allow local cafes from opening before 08:00 in the morning thus stopping workers who start early from having their morning bica, (and in the case of pedreiros, maceiras!)

Furthermore, it has no understanding of the competition it faces from competitors in the Mediterranean and Eastern Atlantic. It also has not understanding as to how the local tourist product is being hit by the crisis and as to how its own actions/inaction are compounding the problems faced by local tourism.

However, there was some good news.

Firstly, the outline of proposed law (displayed on a Powerpoint presentation) showed that the Council had already made a move to amend the law to allow for the extension of the period of opening hours for the period between 1st June and 30 September for the bar sector until 02:00.

Secondly, the Council announced the creation of a working group to include representatives of the hospitality industry to work through the problems arising.

Thirdly, I have never before heard Lagos Council members with voices quavering while making their presentations. There is no doubt that the widespread public reaction, supported by on-line petitions signed by over 3000, (thanks to all here that signed!), and the power of the web, has hit them full-frontal like a Tsunami. They now realise they have a big problem with a local community that wants to see Lagos properly managed and developed as a well-run tourist centre.

A further point made by a local elderly Portuguese resident of down-town Lagos was that the problem was not essentially noise from bars, many of which already have sound limiters installed, but from people partying in the street. He continued to state, I understand (I had to leave before his intervention) that the problem was one of security and effective policing.

There are many other aspects to this ongoing saga that involved local politics, historic mismanagement etc. which I will not bore anyone with.

Suffice to say, incredibly and in closing, that some movement is being detected on the part of the Câmara vis à vis the proposed noise regulations and closing hours.

Latest intel from one of my local informers tells me that, it now (allegedly) appears that the engineer from the Lagos Câmara who sat alongside the President on Thursday night and made the technical presentation about the new laws, including necessary sound suppression equipment for bars, is allegedly a small shareholder of a company, owned by her husband, that PROVIDES SUCH EQUIPMENT.
I also understand that, (allegedly) legal counsel is now being taken about reporting the Council and its staff to the Tribunal for abuse of position and and anti-competitive practices under Article 101 of the The Treaty on The Functioning of the European Union.
If this is true and gets some traction, who said the EU was of no use????
Looks likes we will get our tourist night life back to normal for all!