La alegría ya se fue

My memory seem to be longer than most, and I recall a news article published shortly after the return to “democracy”, featuring the burgeoning nightlife in Santiago’s barrio Bellavista. In newly-liberated Chile, happiness had returned, la alegría ya llegó.

That memory was prompted by this article in today’s EMOL, where the excess of liberty, or rather permissiveness, has led to greatly increased nocturnal delinquency. In effect a virtual curfew now reigns after dark, not only in Santiago, but throughout Chile. Chileans are scared to be out at nights, now. Changed days indeed.

La alegría ya se fue…

In my initial years in Santiago Centro, the bars, fuentes, restaurantes would be open all night. This is how met my future wife. Then they began passing laws to cut the hours and the rest is history.

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These days though, people stay at home not because of licensing restrictions, but because it’s not safe to be on the streets at night.

For those who still go in for all-night bingeing there are the notorious afters, that stay open sometimes till 8am. Completely illegal of course.

18-October + pandemic quarantines + rising crime sure hasn’t helped the situation either. Many people don’t feel safe going out late these days. I’ve seen some reports that some businesses owners/managers are closing earlier both because they don’t sell enough in those last hours to make it worthwhile and to allow them and their staff to get home safely.

Yeah, also retailers used to have to run two shifts to stay open later. But with the increasing costs of personnel, (the minimum wage will soon be $625.000 with the never-to-be-mentioned 25% gratificación included), retailers cut costs by closing earlier and reducing personnel to cover only one shift. Especially since its not worth their while to stay open later, as there are no customers.

This isn’t a Recession, it’s a Depression.

It’s sad to read articles like this about the death of Santiago’s nightlife, as well as hear from my Chilean friends about how they hurry home after work instead of having a coffee or a drink with their friends or colleagues as they once did. While Santiago never really had the bustling, cosmopolitan nightlife of cities like Lima or Buenos Aires, I have fond memories of its “dive bar” scene, of cheap beer in grungy, atmospheric bars with great live music all night long, like Bar de Rene near Santa Isabel, where I spent many a night with friends and former girlfriends. Most of these sort of places were only open in the evening and as such probably haven’t survived the combination of pandemic and estillado which has decimated the night time economy, it’s a shame to see.

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