Government is in the process of overhauling the “ancient” liquor licence regime in Barbados and establishing a Liquor Licensing Authority.
This revelation came on Friday from Minister of Commerce, Small Business and Entrepreneurship Dwight Sutherland, who said the intended changes should result in speedier processing of applications and an overall improvement to doing business for individuals and businesses.
His announcement came ahead of a stakeholder consultation at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, where officials gathered to discuss the intended changes to the liquor licence regime, which Sutherland described as ancient and an anachronistic.
The Minister says he is expecting legislation to be taken to Parliament in a matter of weeks to allow for the establishment of the licensing authority and other changes.
“We saw the need to address what we call ancient and outdated legislation,” said Sutherland. “Some will not see it as a Jesus Christ piece of legislation, but the sin in liquor is the abuse of liquor and the sale of liquors to minors,” he added.
Changes were last made to the Liquor Licences Act in 2009.
Sutherland said a part of the change would be the shift in responsibility of licensing from the judiciary to the planned authority, which would be manned by about four people, and fall within the department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.
“You will see a liquor licensing authority being set up to police this piece of legislation and to ensure that business and commerce are conducted in a civil way,” said Sutherland.
After an application is made the file is sent to the police then it is submitted to the magistrate before going back to the police.
However, Sutherland said with the pending changes the process would be shortened and the process would be done digitally, making it possible for applicants to submitted their forms online and pay via credit card or at the post office.
He said after research was done it was found that businesses were being “held up” due to the lengthy process involved in obtaining a liquor licence.
“It took too long for those small shops and retailers to have a liquor licence approved for the sale of liquor, whether on the export market or locally. And we mapped the process . . . we had some 1,000 liquor licences waiting to be approved in the magistrates’ court. This is really too long,” he complained.
Sutherland said it was taking between three and four months from application to approval of those licences that were being done not by the magistrates but by a clerk in the jurisdiction. The process, he added, cause small businessmen to suffer along with manufacturers and retailers.
“With the remodeling of the legislation it will take some seven days from application to approval process. We are utilising an information communication technology platform to ensure that business is once more efficient,” he added, as he lauded the Prime Minister and other Government ministries for helping to drive the process.
Sutherland believed an improvement in the Liquor Licences Act would also result in an increase in one of the island’s largest exports – rum.
“So what we are doing is to ensure it is a more seamless and efficient process as it relates to business and industries in terms of the regulation,” he said.
Sutherland said he was certain it would add to all the other related changes taking place that should place the island in double-digit rankings in the annual World Bank Ease of Doing Business Report.
Currently, Barbados is ranked 132nd out of 190 countries in that report.
He said following the first consultation several written submissions were made and they would be reviewed so that authorities could come up with best practices and find solutions to challenges.
Following today’s consultation, stakeholders will make written and oral submissions, which will also be considered by a panel. [email protected]