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.
Concordia No. 418, entre Gervasio y Escobar