Government is looking to make it easier for shop keepers, vendors and local event planners to buy and sell alcoholic beverages, particularly at high-volume times such as Crop Over.
Minister of International Business, Commerce, Industry and Small Business Development Donville Inniss revealed today that a new Administration and Liquor Licensing Act was currently in the works and that it will form part of a comprehensive policy paper that is scheduled to go before Cabinet by January 15 next year.
The recommendations arose out of a near two-hour stakeholders meeting this afternoon which discussed ways of improving the current liquor licensing regime, which was in place from since 1967, and which was described as “too frustrating, time consuming, onerous, fragmented and lacking in business friendliness”.
It is therefore being recommended that the system should no longer be administered by the magistrates’ courts, but by a liquor licensing board that is due to be established within Inniss’ ministry.
Recommendations have also been made for licences to be issued on an annual basis, fees from which earned the Government $1.6 million for the 2015-2016 financial year.
“So if you obtain a liquor licence on July 15 this year, it shall remain in force until July 14 next year . . . so that people don’t have wait until the end of the year,” explained Inniss, who suggested that the staggered system would be of “tremendous” benefit to both administrators and licensees.
He also said consideration was being given to the issuing of seasonal or occasional licences, as he zeroed in on Barbados’ premiere cultural festival.
“If you take for example the Crop Over season, which is very critical to us . . . three month period . . . and therein, you find they are subject to the same regime, you have to, let’s say, apply for a licence for Kadooment Day, one for Foreday Morning Jam, one for Spring Garden, Bridgetown Market . . .
“We want to say, ‘look, this is a season. We know there is a series of activities occurring over a three-month period. Let us just consider issuing a licence for the season’,” he explained.
While acknowledging the risk of persons becoming drunk, the Cabinet Minister did not believe that all liquor licences should expire at ten o’clock at night. However, as far as noise was concerned, he assured that Government would be seeking to strike a judicious balance between the need for peace and quiet by residents, and the commercial interests of the licensees.
As for the overall social impact of selling alcohol, Inniss said: “At the end of the day, we are mindful that whilst we don’t want to be overly restrictive in the sale of alcohol, we don’t want it to be done in a manner that poses great risk to the vulnerable in society . . . particularly young people.”
Therefore, he said, the new regulations would make provision for restricting young people under a certain age from consuming alcohol, considering that the existing law only prohibits the selling of such beverages to under-18s.
Today’s meeting was attended by representatives from such agencies as the Royal Barbados Police Force, the Ministry of Health, the Judiciary and the National Council on Substance Abuse.