A stake was driven deeply in the heart of Antigua’s nightlife this morning. At ten am, four truck-loads of black-clad PNC troops descended en mass, some with AK-47’s, all wearing their 9mm Berettas. Reilly’s, of international fame and a longstanding bar considered by most to be the best of Antigua’s nightlife was hereby, now and immediately shut down. Armed with orders to close and accompanied by bureaucrats armed with clipboards, the stunned employees hastily called the owners, while friends swiftly brought trucks to help with the removal of the contents. Case after case of beer was loaded and checked off by the lady with the clipboard and the official ID card. The troops stood in the shade, while their officers watched from across the street at the entrance to the other premier nightclub in Antigua, the Casbah. It was a good time for a shoe shine, in the dark of the doorway. What provoked this dark and secretive action?
Antigua’s administration and that of the City has been repeatedly over the last few months been threatening draconian measures: there was the issue of the closing times and that was settled. On Sunday the 13th of November the paper El Periodico published the proposed law to ban all alcohol sales in Antigua, with a 500 meter distance from all schools, churches and sporting areas to set the boundaries. Since this effectively included all of Antigua, with some 30 churches and many schools, questions arose: would the ruins of churches be included? Would the 75 or so Spanish schools likewise be within the zone of no-drink? Some bar owners began to worry, since there had been a previous notice from the officials that alcohol sales would be banned. At least one restaurant went so far as to hide their liquor. After a month of no action or noticeable activity, the various bars and restaurants began to relax their vigilance. From the action taken this morning, without warning and serving notice that even the more prominent places of business are not safe from the long black arm of the law, there’ll be some nervous clients and their attorneys meeting very quickly. Postscript: the law extends to all of the region, all the outlying town and villages.