San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Prohibition Repealed!

For many non-voting expatriates, particularly those from the United States or with an interest in the National Football League (NFL), the big decision on Sunday will not be made in a polling booth with a pencil, but rather on a sofa with a TV remote control.

In an unscientific poll conducted this week by The Tico Times, expats living in Costa Rica were asked where their allegiance will be this Sunday. Would they rather watch the New Orleans Saints, a longtime NFL doormat, vie for their first-ever Super Bowl championship, or would they prefer to watch as the Costa Rican election results are tallied, possibly anointing the country’s first-ever female president?

The responses were wide-ranging.

Some responses were simple:

“I plan on living here a long time,” said Thomas Walker in an e-mail, explaining why he will watch the elections. Walker also mentioned that he, a Minnesota Vikings fan, watched as his team lost in overtime to the Saints in a playoff game almost two weeks ago.

Some respondents chose to elaborate:

“I’ll be paying closer attention to the elections,” wrote Pete Majerle, editor of Costa Rica Traveler Magazine. “While I believe that whoever wins will have a minimal impact on the country, the festivities surrounding Costa Rican elections are like a mini-World Cup in Tiquicia, one that happens every four years and has the possibility to at least shaping some part of the country in the future. And while I am a fan of American football, being the chest-beating simp that I am, the Super Bowl and the surrounding hype interests me almost as little as analyzing the particulates of chicken farts. Being an accomplice to overpriced commercials, conservative network interests, roid-laden behemoths pounding each other silly and tens of millions of vapid, beer-swilling aficionados has little interest to me.”

And some respondents were more straightforward:

“As a non-Gringo and a non-Tico, I am mildly interested in both events,” said Mario Chiu. “However, being that the Super Bowl generally involves birras and bocas, I’ll stick to it.”

Chiu’s response, which references “birras,” or beers, highlights what’s new about the 2010 elections this Sunday. That is, for the first time in 58 years, alcohol will be served on Election Day.


Election Prohibition Repealed


During every election weekend since 1952 – a stretch that includes 15 elections – a prohibition in the Elections Law, referred to as the Ley Seca (Dry Law), banned the sale of alcohol the day before, the day of and the day after the vote. Therefore, during election weekends, most bars closed, and those that remained open sold only food or attempted to exploit loopholes in the law.

“The 2006 Super Bowl fell on the same day as the elections,” said Bill Alexander, one of the owners of the Sportsmen’s Lodge in San José. “We set up a BYOB (bring your own booze) plan so that guests coming here brought in their own drinks and could still drink during the game. We still sold food and mixers, but we didn’t sell alcohol. We had some visits from the police and the municipality during the game but, since we weren’t selling alcohol, the party wasn’t shut down.”

But this year, thanks to a repeal of the law in July, alcohol will be served this weekend at restaurants and bars and sold in stores. While some still feel alcohol and elections don’t mix, owners and employees of bars nationwide are rejoicing.

“Thank God they did away with the dry law,” said Brian Frazee, general manager of the Players Sports Bar and Casino on the grounds of the White House Hotel in Escazú.

“How can you have a Super Bowl party without beer and drinks? We are encouraging people to vote in the morning and then come out and join us for the game and elections in the afternoon.”

Frazee and Alexander, as well as bar owners and managers who cater to a North American clientele throughout the country, were enthusiastic about the lifting of the dry law.

This year’s election is the third election Sunday in a row – including 2002, 2006 and 2010 – on which both the Super Bowl and the election have fallen.

“The elections screwed up the best Sunday of the year in 2006 and 2002,” said Eddy Barrientos, manager at Mac’s American Bar in La Sabana, west of San José. “We are thankful that the dry law is gone and we can enjoy the benefits of a crowd interested in both the Super Bowl and the elections.”

Barrientos, like other managers and owners of bars with a predominantly North American clientele, expects a very large turnout for Sunday’s Super Bowl and Election Day festivities. Though the majority of the guests are expected to keep their eyes on the Super Bowl, most bars will alert patrons of the election results or keep at least one of their many televisions tuned to election coverage.

“We are not sure yet if we will have a TV that shows only election coverage, but our DJ will announce what is happening in the elections during the night,” said Joanne Loewen, marketing coordinator for Brad’s Grille in Santa Ana, west of San José. “With Brad’s clientele, it’s really more Tico than it is American. I know we will attract people for the Super Bowl, but we definitely have to have what’s going on in the country.”


Keeping an Eye on Both

According to 30 responses to the informal Tico Times poll, 11 people said they will watch only the Super Bowl, seven people said they will watch only the elections, eight said they will keep an eye on both and four said they will be watching neither.

“The elections or the Super Bowl, what is the difference?” said Bob & Ione Klenz in a written message to The Tico Times. “Only one party will win, and there will only be one winning quarterback! I think watching the Super Bowl will be more interesting in the short term. The game only lasts for three hours while the election will be viewable for four years.”



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