Illegal parties break the curfew in Riga

Illegal parties thrive in Riga, and so does shadow economy, said the Latvian Association of Bars on Latvian Radio August 11.

While COVID-19 restrictions, including the rule that entertainment venues must close at midnight, make some businesses  suffer, others aren't shy about breaking the law. Clubs and bars tend to be open until two at night or longer. By law, only open-air cinemas can do this right now. Many clubs or bars keep the parties directly under the cover of a formal open-air cinema.

One of the founders of the Latvian Association of Bars, Arnis Bikšus, said that not only are illegal parties thriving, but also the shadow economy. 

"Underground parties boom like never before. Everything goes into the "gray zone" smoothly. No receipt lottery here. No one has the motivation to pay taxes. Everybody knows they can disguise parties and raves as outdoor cinema. All taxi drivers already know where to take customers after midnight. Everyone has their own Internet environment, the closed groups of Telegram and Whatsapp," Bikšus said.

He assumes that everything can be solved simply by allowing parties until two or three at night. Bikšus himself also owns a bar called “Cuba Cafe” in Old Riga, working until midnight. He has bought a projector with the idea of showing open-air cinema. He has not done it though -  the penalty is EUR 5000. Illegal entertainment sites are also known to the Riga municipal police.

"The police have seen entertainment sites systematically breaking the rules and working overnight. As a result, a number of administrative processes have also been initiated," said police spokesman Toms Sadovskis.

On Monday, August 10, the Latvian Bar Association met with Health Minister Ilze Viņķele to discuss the possibility of allowing catering and entertainment sites to work longer. The minister said that she had only heard of illegal parties at the level of rumor. And these restrictions have produced the expected result – there are no outbreaks detected in entertainment sites.

“In our view, we can risk and go back to bar, restaurant, pub working hours until 2. Illegal entertainment sites are a clear and fair police competence and I regret to hear that our police recognize their inability to limit and eliminate such phenomena,” the minister said.

The government will decide on relaxing the restrictions on Tuesday, August 11.

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