The Americas

Cuba freezes new licenses for private restaurants in Havana

FILE - In this July 11, 2012 file photo, Tomas Erasmo Hernandez, center, owner of the private restaurant Mama Ines, chats with his customers in Old Havana, Cuba. Cuba is temporarily freezing new licenses for private restaurants in Havana, announced by acting Vice President Isabel Hamze on state media on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. The city is also starting to impose more limits on private bed-and-breakfasts. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa, File)

FILE - In this July 11, 2012 file photo, Tomas Erasmo Hernandez, center, owner of the private restaurant Mama Ines, chats with his customers in Old Havana, Cuba. Cuba is temporarily freezing new licenses for private restaurants in Havana, announced by acting Vice President Isabel Hamze on state media on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016. The city is also starting to impose more limits on private bed-and-breakfasts. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa, File)  (The Associated Press)

Cuba is freezing new licenses for private restaurants in Havana as it struggles with the runaway success of one of the most important openings in the state-run economy.

The country was once famed for its dire state restaurants and cafeterias, but it's developed a vibrant dining scene since private restaurants were legalized two decades ago.

However the private restaurateurs lack a wholesale market or legal way to import supplies and equipment. So they've been emptying the shelves of retail shops and buying other goods on the black market. That has led to rising food prices and shortages of goods for other Cubans.

Acting Vice President Isabel Hamze tells state media that Havana's provincial government is temporarily freezing the approval of new licenses and is inspecting restaurants to detect violations,.