RESTAURANTS and bars in Cebu City are again prohibited from serving liquor to customers after Mayor Edgardo Labella issued an executive order (EO) implementing a city-wide liquor ban starting Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021.

In his EO 117 signed Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2021, Labella said some establishments continue to serve more than the allotted two bottles or two orders of liquor per customer allowed by the Department of Trade and Industry.

During the Cebu City Police Office’s (CCPO) Oplan Bulabog from Jan. 15, 2021 to Jan. 31, it issued show cause orders to 286 establishments for violating various quarantine protocols, such as failing to implement strict physical distancing, serving excessive liquor to customers and admitting customers more than the allowed capacity.

Labella believes some establishments became complacent in implementing minimum health protocols during the recent holiday, prompting some people to gather for celebrations, which might have contributed to the sudden rise in coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases in the city.

Noting the city’s 1,504 active cases on Feb. 1, Labella said in his EO: “The City Government of Cebu sees the need to reimpose a total liquor ban as a measure to prevent non-essential social gatherings in public places and to mitigate the spread of Covid.”

However, the mayor clarified that groceries, convenience stores and sari-sari stores can still sell liquor, but this can only be consumed inside the customer’s house.

Hotels and other accommodation establishments are also allowed to serve liquor but only to in-house guests.

Any establishment caught not following the EO could lose its mayor’s permit, Labella said.

Cebu City had only 128 active cases on Jan. 1, 2021.

After logging 142 new cases on Feb. 2, the city now has 1,613 active cases.

The last time Labella imposed a liquor ban was in March last year, when the national government placed Cebu City under a state of general community quarantine (GCQ) following the start of the Covid-19 pandemic

The CCPO welcomed Labella’s new EO as it intensifies its operations against quarantine violators.

Lt. Col. Wilbert Parilla, CCPO’s deputy director for operations, said they are waiting for the EO’s implementing rules and regulations.

“This development will be a boost in our efforts to prevent the spread of the disease, considering that several cases have been traced to bars or restaurants where patients attended parties,” he said in Cebuano.

Parilla said the liquor ban is necessary since some people have let their guard down and have been observed to drink in bars and other establishments after curfew hours.

The police official said the CCPO will check interior portions of barangays after receiving reports that some residents have resorted to drinking liquor on the sidewalk.

In Cebu Province, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia saw no need to impose a similar ban.

“Let me assure all Cebuanos in the province of Cebu: no liquor ban. If you are in a restaurant unya wa mo manghilabot og tawo (and you are not bothering anyone), you can still serve,” Garcia said in a press conference on Tuesday, Feb. 2.

Since Cebu is still under modified general community quarantine, there is no need to reimpose measures that will restrict public movement, she said.

Restaurants and bars, which have been hard-hit by the lockdown last year, will lose much needed income if she bans them from serving liquor, she added.

However, this doesn’t give residents of the province the green light to be complacent against Covid-19, Garcia said.

She reminded the public to strictly follow minimum health requirements such as the proper wearing of face masks and face shields, and avoiding mass gatherings and contact sports.

She also reminded liquor drinkers to avoid looking for trouble when they get drunk. (PAC, AYB, ANV / JKV)