Saturday, October 26, 2013

Proper Permits to Run a Restaurant

One of our favorite local restaurants closed a couple of months ago.  Although we're used to seeing restaurants come and go, we hate to lose some of our local haunts.  Playa has a very competitive restaurant scene.  Every year many businesses close and others open.  Some take over empty space, build out the entire restaurant and then never even open.  Others seem to do fine in high season but then starve when all the tourists leave and wind up closing in less than a year.  A lucky few will open, survive and thrive.  And sometimes it will be a cafe that opens with 5 other cafes in a one block radius and turns out to be the new hot spot in town.

Overall though the selection and quality of restaurant food in Playa in my opinion is some of the best, freshest and authentic in the world.  Luckily our local restaurant that closed amazingly reopened last week but in a different location.  We went for dinner the other night along with a group of friends and I just had to ask the waitress what happened.  She explained the owner of the space they were renting before did not have a permit for "Uso del Suelo" (literally, use of the ground).  Without this permit the authorities had come by, fined the restaurant owner, closed the business, and after paying the fine she was open the next day.  The next time she had a knock at the door she was fined a higher amount, closed, paid and opened again. The third time she was fined even more, but this time said no way so she closed and moved locations to where I'm guessing the owner of the new commercial space has a "Uso de Suelo".

Although I had a general idea of what "Uso de Suelo" was, I wanted to get more specifics so I looked it up online and also asked my head of maintenance who is also an accountant what permits are required to have a restaurant.  Essentially "Uso de Suelo" is permission from the local government to have an establishment open to the public.  It helps prevent proliferation of any one type of business and it adds quality control over things like sanitary conditions and public safety.  The cost of such a permit is only around $4,000 pesos (approx. $300 USD).  You can read about it (in Spanish) here:

In addition to the "Uso de Suelo", a restaurant owner would also need a "Licencia de Funcionamiento" (operator's license), a "Licencia Sanitaria" (sanitary license) and a license to sell liquor (if applicable). Additionally all the employees would need to be registered with hacienda (the local tax authority).  These permits and regulations seem fairly standard, and would be expected in the US.  There may be other permits and permissions I'm missing, but this is what I came up with in my limited research.

Mexico is different than the US in terms of zoning. At least in Playa your neighbor can literally (with the correct permits) drive their car out of the driveway and put in a restaurant or a store in a residential area.  It's not so easy for foreigners to do this, but locals do it all the time.  It certainly makes for some interesting neighborhoods, though at times I do appreciate US standard zoning laws. Who knows, maybe my neighbor in Playa will want to open a late night hamburger joint where people stop for a bite at 6am after hitting the clubs!

Pelican on the beach in Phase 1

Allan, about to enter a cenote in Playa

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Playa Tenis Center

I have agreed to start writing articles for a new local English newspaper called the Playa Times.  Given I am quite busy with work and sometimes struggle with even keeping up with my blog, we will see how it goes.  For my first article I have decided to write about the quite impressive Playa Tenis Center (the "PTC") near the Coke plant just north of Playa.

The PTC was started a few years ago as a dream of Claudia Rios de Arana and her husband Architect Luis Arana.  As an avid tennis playing family they wanted to create a world class facility for learning and playing tennis, starting on the ground level, working on tennis fundamentals, in order to perhaps bring the level of tennis training up to the level of other parts of Mexico.  Although there are many tennis players in Playa, and quite good coaching, before the PTC there was no one central organized facility with proper structured training, first class courts, video cameras taping classes for teacher and student review and hosting facilities for national and international tournaments. They are really looking to set a very high level of professionalism and training at a national and world class level.

Just a couple of weeks ago the PTC hosted the Nike Junior Tour where some of the best youth players from all over the country unified to play in Playa.  It not only helped to put Playa on the tennis map but also helped to show local players how they rank on a national scale.  It gives motivation to help improve one's game.  This week the PTC is holding qualifications for Mexicans in the international Futures Tennis Tournament being held near Tulum at the Palladium Hotel.

The coaching at the PTC is also fantastic. Coach Rafael Gutierrez Perez ("Coach Rafa") was the number one player in Mexico from the age of 10 to the age of 18, and even played in South Africa at the age of 14 against former World No. #1 Player Rafael Nadal.  At one point in time, Coach Rafa was ranked around 400 in the world.  Choosing to split his time between school and tennis, in the end he opted for school and became an architect by day and tennis coach in the mornings and evenings.

The PTC currently has 3 hard courts (which can be converted to 4 singles courts), and they are installing an additional court which might be grass or clay.  They are also in the process of building a swimming pool.  I'm going to start classes next week and am excited to finally have my lessons video taped and posted on a secure link online so I can actually see how I am playing.

Here is a link to the Playa Tenis Center:

Playa Tenis Center A.C.
Ave. Universidades Esq. Calle Langosta L-8 Mza. 4 Fracc. Arrecifes C.P. 77712
Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo

01 984 109 0507

Claudia and Coach Rafa at the PTC.

One court at the PTC.
The Playa Tenis Center

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Watching the World Series from Playa

Last night I was sitting in Wings Army watching the first game of the World Series between the Boston Red Sox and St. Louis Cardinals.   The game is taking place in Boston at Fenway Park, a 10 minute walk to where our condo is located on Beacon Street.  It's very interesting to be so far away in Mexico and to look back at my home town on TV with all my fellow Bostonians enjoying Red Sox fever.

Down here in Playa I went into the sports bar, and it was empty, and the game was not even on TV.  It look the waiter about 10 minutes just to find the game so I could watch it.  I was experiencing a very rare phenomenon in Playa - I was alone at a sports bar.  I'm so used to having friends around, or at least Allan.  Allan was getting a massage and the friends I had invited had prior engagements.  Not wanting to stay at home I ventured out with a book, in search of chicken wings and beer and the World Series.

I know many people would love to have some quiet time alone. It's just that in Playa we've made so many wonderful friends, we've become used to always having them around - to really enjoy the company of people around you.  I don't have the need or desire to escape or get away.  Home is here.

My dinner - chicken wings and beer.  Allan came around later and help me finish it off.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Halloween Preparations

Allan and I are busy preparing our outfits for our upcoming Halloween party.  When I was back in the USA I found several of these $50 USD costumes at a yard sale for only $1 USD each.  I bought a few figuring someone could use them: a fairy costume, gothic girl and a bumble bee.  I also acquired a couple of witches hats.

This year I've opted for the bumble bee but I'm lacking in a lot of the accessories.  The costume came in ladies small and includes a dress, wings, head band with antenna and yellow bag for candy with honey written on the side.  To accessorize I went with my friend Trudy shopping in Playa looking for tights, a yellow wig and perhaps a yellow shirt to go under the costume.

In typical Playa fashion our search ended with very little: a pair of black and yellow wool leggings.  This is after visiting 7 different stores, including 1 with just halloween costumes (which were great but priced at twice the US value). Granted Playa tends to be hot and humid I was not really looking forward to wearing wool leggings, but it was a start.

Luckily a good friend was going back to the USA for a couple of weeks and was returning before Halloween and she agreed to let me ship some smaller, lighter items to her house that she would bring back.  One thing I do miss about the USA is the shopping - great selection with fantastic prices.  I acquired a perfect yellow wig with pig tails, yellow and black tights, a button with a bee on it that says b-othch (the B word) and yellow and black sunglasses.  They are really going to turn my costume from cute to spectacular.

Allan is busy elaborating his Katrina costume (lady dead) from last year with his friend Lucien who is the former costume designer from Cirque du Soleil.  Yesterday Allan and Lucien spent part of the day visiting a lot of the craft stores looking for new twists and additions to make Allan's outfit even more outrageous.  You will have to stay tuned for pictures.  In the US Allan bought a bunch of lights for his outfit - I guess if you don't notice him behind the extravagant costume, you are going to notice him looking like a scary Christmas tree!!

And then yesterday we were at Cost Co buying candy to hand out.  In Playa our friends meet at our condo in costume, have a drink or two and then head out to 5th Avenue to show off and also to see all the cute kids in costume.  We not only walk around showing off, we also hand out candy to the hundreds of little cuties in their costumes.

Halloween is literally the best day of the year.  We have so much fun, once it's over we are already looking forward to next year, and we talk about other ways to dress up during the year and have fun. Unfortunately Halloween is the only time we actually follow through with it.

Demi gets in the action in her banana costume

My bee costume with the wool leggings i am NOT going to wear

Molli the pirate.