What ordinance? Taft bar culture alive despite 2019 crackdown

Ordinances will not stop Happy Ts—The LaSallian goes around the vicinity of Taft Ave. to find how Lasallians keep getting their hands on booze despite a liquor ban.

Happy T is now Happy Tuesdays?

Older batches may recall that nearly four years ago, former Manila Mayor Isko Moreno traveled around Taft Ave. to order the shutdown of drinking establishments that accommodated minors or were within 200 meters of schools.

Bar culture in DLSU took a pause after that and later died as the pandemic forced most, if not all, establishments to close. With the resumption of face-to-face classes, old and new students have returned to the scene. Have establishments learned from the reasons for their past closure?

Alleged bar violations

The LaSallian learns in a series of interviews that some alcohol-serving establishments that Lasallians frequent have allegedly failed to comply with the ordinances of the city.

Laura* (II, BSMSChE) says she has been aware of some instances where underaged Lasallians have been able to enter bars around the Taft area, such as those in Default Cafe Pub along Pilar Hidalgo Lim St. and Chill Top in Gil Puyat Ave. Noel* (I, HUM-BIO), who is currently underage, adds that he has been to multiple bars in the area, such as the Lost Spirit Rooftop Lounge located at Heroes Hotel Manila by Osmeña Highway.

“In Lost Spirit, they did not check for any identification,” he explains. However, Noel admits he is in possession of a counterfeit digital passport. Using photo editing software, he changed his birth year in the ID to sneak into bars.

Sources close to the matter also confirm that Beach House along Fidel A. Reyes St. is softly reopening to the public after it closed due to the 2019 order, while Food and Booze beside Enrique M. Razon Sports Center is also fully operational. Numerous students frequent the DLSU alumni-owned Ellipsis Coffee and Cocktail Bar across Arellano University School of Law and Wesleyan College Manila. All of these establishments serve alcohol and operate within a 200-meter radius of schools.

The management of Lost Spirit refused to be interviewed without receiving questions in advance.

Other sources

Access to alcohol for Lasallians has not been limited to bars along Taft Ave. Kara* (II, BS-PSYC) shares that following the closure of establishments, she instead spent time in bars and nightclubs in other cities, such as Makati and Taguig. 

Konti lang kasi bars along Taft…minsan lang ako pumupunta to those here in Taft,” she adds.

(There are only a few bars along Taft. I only sometimes go to those here in Taft.)

Most convenience stores do not display alcoholic beverages on the shelves but continue to sell them to students who request them over the counter. 

Nina* (II, BS-CHYB), who has purchased alcohol from the All Day Convenience Store in Vista Taft Residences, adds that they failed to check for any forms of identification during her purchase. She says that “Siguro dahil…since around nga Taft, ina-assume na lang nila na [we are of age],” she explains.

(Maybe because we are in Taft, they already assume we are of age.)

Marie* (II, AEF-MGT) shares the same experience but suggests that establishments should have strict self-regulation. “I believe that bars should open around the Taft area. However, regulations on the distance of bars to educational institutions must be maintained in order to prevent alcohol-influenced violence and illegal activity,” she asserts.

Other stores near the University selling alcohol are Nabi Korean Mart beside Gokongwei Hall; Mina Convenience Store in Green Podium; 7-Eleven in Manila Residences and Green Court Parking; Ministop in EGI Taft Tower; and WeShop Supermarket in R Square Mall, according to sources who have bought alcohol from the stores. 

Students also buy liquor and alcoholic drinks through delivery services, such as GrabFood and Foodpanda, where age verification is only confirmed by ticking a checkbox upon checkout.

Prior investigations

The LaSallian had earlier reported that several of the bars and restaurants that operated within a few meters of the University buildings in the past few decades caused the display of unruly conduct by intoxicated students.

In a 2016 town hall meeting, the DLSU administration had previously attempted to enact measures that sought to address the “excessive drinking” culture—as Provost Dr. Robert Roleda described it—among Lasallians by moving the University break (U Break) from Fridays to Mondays. However, the decision was reversed following backlash from the students.

Brought upon by the hybrid setup, the U Break is now on Wednesdays starting 2:30 pm, but the traditions behind Happy Thursdays have not changed. According to several Lasallians, they tend to spend their Tuesday nights drinking out as a result of the new schedule. However, the laws have only momentarily interrupted Happy T once before.

There are laws

In 2019, Moreno signed Executive Order No. 17, reiterating the strict enforcement of two preexisting anti-liquor ordinances. 

Ordinance No. 8520 bans the sale of alcohol to minors, while Ordinance No. 3532 reinforces Republic Act (RA) No. 1224, which blocks the sale of liquor or any alcoholic beverage within 200 meters of schools. RA 1224 also prohibits the operations of any nightclubs, bars, or any establishment of amusement within a radius of 50 linear meters from educational institutions.

Multiple alcohol-serving establishments were discovered with violations against the ordinances, forcing the Manila City Hall to revoke their business permits. Despite the existence of these regulations, it has not stopped Lasallians from finding establishments that serve alcohol.

The Manila Bureau of Permits says in an emailed response that the orders covering the closed establishments in 2019 are standing closure orders, and they are not allowed to reapply for business permits. They add that they would be conducting inspections of establishments after the renewal season of business permits.

The University’s Office of the Vice President for Administration has no comment on the issue.

*Names with asterisks (*) are pseudonyms.

ERRATUM: March 23, 2023
An earlier version of the article erroneously mentioned that Ellipsis Coffee and Cocktail Bar refused to be interviewed after miscommunications with our reporters. The publication apologizes for the oversight.

The LaSallian

By The LaSallian

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