RIO DE JANEIRO – There’s no point in showing up at this city’s Maracanã Stadium during the World Cup without a ticket to the match – or even coming within a kilometer of it.
Wednesday’s gate-storming by an unruly group of ticketless Chile fans, which followed a demonstration during the stadium’s opening match between Argentina and Bosnia in which protesters were doused with tear gas and two were arrested, has pushed the police perimeter out farther from the stadium – with mixed results for local businesses.
From its beginnings as a loosely secured circle encompassing the stadium, the police cordon now includes a full border patrol operation extending to the entrances of the Maracanã and São Cristovão Metro stations on the north and two blocks down every street on the south.
Street closures that begin six hours before each match have become a regular part of life in the area that surrounds Rio’s famous, recently refurbished Maracanã, Brazil’s largest soccer stadium, built in 1950 for the previous Brazilian World Cup and seating 78,838 spectators.
While beer sales are now permitted inside the stadium for the first time in 11 years (a FIFA mandate forced a change in the law), they are banned outside the grounds on match days, as are advertisements for non-official sponsors thanks to new World Cup policies.
Whether such limits hurts or helps local business depends on location: In Copacabana, far distant from the police cordon and near FIFA’s Fan Fest, a free beach party sponsored by the World Cup’s governing body, restaurants and bars are free to sell beer and show the game on their television screens, with a few exceptions.
But near the stadium, business owners complain about an excessive police presence that is causing them a multitude of problems.
Asked how his business was, the owner of Show de Boa, who would only give his name as Joao, told International Business Times sarcastically, “[It’s] great! Marvelous! I love the Cup.” As Wednesday’s Spain-Chile match was being played, he added, loudly enough to ensure nearby police could hear, “I love FIFA. Everything is great! No beer, no problems.”
Brazil’s police forces are in full force in the area around Maracanã, with guns, tear gas and two-foot-long nightsticks. Though they provide security against crime and occasional violent protests, some local vendors say their presence alienates patrons.
Paulo Dantas, who operates a self-service restaurant and bar on Rua São Francisco Xavier, the first unblocked street south of Maracanã, said his business has been up and down since the start of the Cup, and he doesn’t understand the policy banning alcohol outside the stadium.
“Things are fine [with the police]. The only problem is that we can’t sell beer,” he said. “From two hours before until two hours after the game we can’t sell beer. Everyone else can sell beer, but not us [bar and restaurant owners].”
FIFA has granted sole beer rights inside the stadium to Budweiser.
There are, however, plenty of other places outside the stadium to get beer aside from bars and restaurants. Most street vendors have kept their distance due to the increased police presence, but groceries can still sell beer and drinking on sidewalks or in the street is legal in Rio, so many would-be customers purchase beers elsewhere and walk to nearby bars to watch the games.
Augusto Jardim, who owns Varejao Descartaveis, a general store two blocks from the stadium, said his business has dropped off, mainly because of how difficult it is for his customers to get there.
“Here, it’s the police,” he says. “The police block everything. There’s no parking, there’s nowhere for anyone to park and there are people always in the street.”
City officials distributed an estimated 1,600 credentials to residents and business owners in the vicinity of the stadium, granting them clearance through most obstacles. But multiple street blockages, parking bans and a flood of foot traffic have made actually moving through the neighborhood extremely difficult.
Some say FIFA has also forced a number of bars to close and has restricted television viewing at restaurants and bars that were operating within a one- or two-kilometer area of the sponsored FIFA Fan Fest on Copacabana beach.
One was Balcony Bar, known as a popular hub for Americans and English-speakers as well as a favored destination of Brazilian prostitutes, which has been shut down since the start of the Cup. The bar was ordered closed by Rio’s police chief of the delegation of child and adolescent victims, Dr. Marcello Braga Maia, for “incentive sexual exploitation of a vulnerable person,” according to a notice posted on a column in front of the bar.
“The police showed up for an investigation and looked at one girl and asked her, ‘Do you have [identification]?’ and she said, ‘No, I don’t have [identification],’” said Julia Souza, a prostitute who works in the area. “When she didn’t have it, they closed the bar.”
The order posted requires “owners and other managers responsible for the premises to immediately suspend their economic activities” and says they “may not serve another customer while the restraining order is thriving.” The flyer notes that the investigation and closure took place on June 12, the day before the start of the World Cup.
Cracking down on underage prostitution has been a major goal for Brazil during the Cup, and the bar is located directly across the street from the entrance to FIFA Fan Fest. David Eger, the owner of Balcony Bar, did not immediately return a request for comment.
Elsewhere in Copacabana, owners, workers and security personnel told IBTimes their business has been good.
“We’ve had no problems from [FIFA]. None,” said Geraldo Ribeiro, whose restaurant is a block from the beach. “Thanks to God, everything here has been good. Security is very good now, no confusion, nothing. People in the street stay in the street, our customers are happy here.”