Lawmakers on Tuesday approved sweeping changes to the liquor licence regime in a nod to business that streamlines the process of applying for permission to sell alcohol.
Small Business Minister Kerrie Symmonds said that under the update to the 1957 Liquor Licence Act, applicants for liquor licences could receive the document in a matter of five days, instead of five weeks as is currently the norm.
Speaking on the Bill in the House of Assembly, Symmonds outlined that business operators seeking liquor licences will no longer have to make an application to the Magistrates’ Court but rather the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs through a civil authority that will be led by a director.
He said: “The authority shall consist of a chief officer to be known as a director and such other officers as the director and minister think necessary.
“The authority shall be responsible for administering the act, issuing licences in accordance with the act, supervising licences and the operation of licensed premises and the general enforcement of the legislation.
“There will be an export licence which applies where liquor is going to be exported, a wholesale licence which applies where liquor is going to be sold on a wholesale basis, a retail licence.”
According to Symmonds, for the first time, in an effort to ease the process administratively, multi-year liquor licences will be introduced to allow business operators to get a licence for three years.
He said that the new law which facilitates the cleaning of legislative missteps that have been identified, also clearly states a clear definition between hotel and restaurant liquor.
The minister explained: “Intimate Hotels, for a one-year licence, they will pay $1,500, for a two-year licence, instead of paying $3,000, they will pay $2,850 and for a three-year licence, instead of paying $4,500, they will pay $4,050.
“For the larger hotels, for example those with 100 bedrooms, then for a one-year licence they will be paying $7,500, for a two-year licence instead of paying $15,000 will pay $14,250, and for three-year licences, instead of paying $22,500, they will pay $20,250.”
He also indicated that while micro enterprises have had to apply for a one-week liquor licence to sell alcohol, the law will now allow these entrepreneurs to apply for an entertainment licence. The entertainment licence will allow for small businesses to have a valid liquor licence for extended periods.
The minister also said that the legislation will bring an end to event promoters having to apply for multiple magistrates in various jurisdictions, as they will now be able to apply for a seasonal licence.
He said: “A seasonal licence will be available for the sum of $500 and it lasts for three months maximum. And therefore we begin a process that is much needed in Barbados.
“Whereas if you are an event promoter, you have some certainty that you can do what you have to do. If you want a licence for two weeks, take it for two weeks. You have access under the season for a licence to a whole season up to the period of three months.”
Symmonds said that it is customary that after persons make formal appearances in the Magistrates Court for a liquor licence, they still have to wait a maximum of five weeks to get their paperwork.
He also argued that even worse than having to get paper work, is the fact that persons are subjected to an unsatisfactory experience in the Magistrates Courts, including having to wait long hours before being able to make an appearance.
He said studies show that as many as 85 to 100 people can be seen standing outside the Magistrates Court at the same time waiting on their turn to go before a magistrate regarding a liquor licence.
Symmonds said it was a disgrace that the Holetown Magistrates Court, Holetown, St James, has 1,000 liquor licence applications waiting to be processed.
He told the House: “If you go there today for your liquor licence and something happens like the Magistrate for example may have taken ill, the court, if it meets, they meet for a very short time, or it may not meet at all.
“This is a reality of which I speak. And what happens to the person that went there to deal with his or her liquor licence because he or she may want to have that licence in place for when the test cricket is done and the one days start.
“And you got to wait for a date to come back. And don’t think your date is going to be tomorrow. Don’t hold your breath and hope your date is next week Sir.
“Don’t hope your date is a fortnight from now. Very often you will wait a while before you get back there. That is how we have conducted the people’s business since the year 1957 in this country. It has to change.” (AH)