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

No comments: