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Havana's Most Highly Touted Private Restaurant Re-Opens

La Guarida, which for years earned accolades as Havana’s best restaurant, has reopened after an 18-month hiatus. Enrique Núñez del Valle, the owner and host, said recently that he was very pleased to be up and operating again in the same location in Centro Habana.

The restaurant closed in 2009 after the Cuban government cracked down on most private restaurants, enforcing provisions of a law that limited space and the number of employees. Núñez del Valle was unable to keep his thriving business open under those conditions and was forced to close.

But in October,, the Cuban government revised the regulations regarding the creation of private business. The government is allowing individuals to start businesses in 178 different categories, everything from restaurants and taxi drivers, to barber shops and parking lots. Any new business will be required to pay a licensing fee, and the owners will be subject to taxes up to 50 percent of their profits, depending on the category.  For the first time, the owners will also be permitted to hire non-relatives (a feature of the old law that was often ignored), but they must pay to the government a payroll tax of 25 percent on each employee. The regulations are aimed at trying to offset the dismissal of up to one million government workers in 2011.

“I’m just happy to be back. When I closed, I thought it was forever. But here I am,” Núñez del Valle said to Cigar Aficionado.

Even though he had only been open for three weeks in early December, La Guarida was packed for dinner, and there was a line of people waiting to be seated.

La Guarida
Concordia No. 418, entre Gervasio y Escobar
Centro Habana

Tel: 5280-4940

Taylor Franklin December 24, 2010 6:47pm ET
Excellent news.

Had many wonderful meals there, impeccable Cuban service, and always a memorable cigar afterwards.

A must stop for cigar and food fans. For food folks who've never been to La Habana before, do not expect Guy Savoy of Paris. This is La Habana at some of its best.
Dan Coyro Santa Cruz, CA, USA, December 25, 2010 3:48pm ET
Had many memorable meals at La Guarida dating back to December of 1995 and Each time we returned, Enrique would always remember us. He would come over after dinner to hear how we liked the meal and on several occasions sat down to have a cigar with us. I'll never forget the table of visiting Los Angelenos who complained about our cigar smoke to the stunned waiter.
Taylor Franklin December 26, 2010 6:45pm ET
The above posting from Dan, reminds me of a very similar experience at La Guarida.

We'd just finished dinner and of course proceeded to cut and light. No reason to ask for permission since we've been a number times.

The table of three across from us, oddly enough Californians as well, began to complain quite vocally. Enrique came over and asked THEM to leave.

Squeaky wheels do not get the grease, either they get rejected or pay more.
Eric Hewett Leamington, Ontario, Canada, December 30, 2010 11:57am ET
I love these stories! Due to the complete attack on smokers rights in North America these tales of enjoying a fine cigar after a good meal makes Cuba sound almost like a mystical wonderland full of magic & enchantment.

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