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Sunday, December 4, 2022

Mérida residents complain about downtown businesses hogging public spaces

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Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway. Sign up for the Yucatán Roundup, a free newsletter, which delivers the week's top headlines every Monday.
Several restaurants in Mérida have long used public areas as if it was their own, but that could be about to change. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Mérida’s City Hall says it has removed metallic structures and potted plants designed to close off public spaces for private businesses.

The action came after a group of citizens complained about the practice of businesses blocking access to both pedestrian and street vendors. 

A sign in Santa Lucia park prohibits access to street vendors in public areas operated by restaurants. Photo: Courtesy

There are currently no bylaws on the books regulating the use of public spaces by businesses.

One of the most obvious cases of this practice is Santa Lucia park, where several restaurants use large sections of the park itself as seating for their patrons. 

In the case of Santa Lucia, this issue is not limited to the outdoor plaza itself, but the inside of its archways as well. 

“The problem is not that businesses use public spaces per se, but rather that they start to feel they own it and start to exclude others,” Josefina Pérez said on Facebook.

Earlier: Drivers ‘seeing red’ over Mérida’s confusing new pedestrian traffic lights

The use of public spaces by businesses, especially restaurants, is nothing new and is common along with several spots on Mérida’s historic Paseo de Montejo avenue. 

Yucatán’s restaurant association says it wishes to work with local and state authorities to come to an agreeable solution to the problem.

“It’s ironic that when we are talking about large businesses, these things are negotiated, but when the business is a small ice-cream cart or an indigenous street vendor, authorities are much more rash. It’s all about class,” said Raúl López Ojeda, a local lawyer and human rights advocate. 

Vendors from Chiapas sell their wares in Santa Lucia Park but are excluded from certain areas by some restaurant operators. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Another particularly egregious example was the corner across from the Monumento a la Patria, where a restaurant had so many chairs set up, that the sidewalk was entirely taken up. 

The issue shares several features with the phenomena of businesses using and blocking access to the beach, with the difference that in the latter case, strict rules exist. 

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