The new liquor licence regime set to replace the previous one that saw licence applications having to go through the Magistrate’s Court before gaining approval, will bring with it a Liquor Licence Authority and make use of technology.
Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce, Dwight Sutherland, detailed this last Friday while addressing the start of a National Stakeholders’ Consultation at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, Two Mile Hill, St. Michael.
The consultation was the second held by his Ministry to examine stakeholders’ reviews of the draft Bill and to address issues and best practices.
Acknowledging that Government recognized the sale of liquor as “a reputable commercial, economic activity in this country”, Minister Sutherland said: “We saw the need to address what we call ancient and outdated legislation and this was started some 18 years ago… back in the year 1999. So, you see how long we have been trying to address this legislation to improve and enhance the ease of doing business and also to ensure that businesses and industries are well-regulated and that the regulation would allow more efficient and effective conduct of business.”
While pointing out the ‘sin’ in liquor was the abuse of liquor and the sale of it to minors, he lauded stakeholders for their input into the consultation. In particular, he praised those from the rum industry, their distributors, and the National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA) for leading the charge and the public relations campaign against this ‘sin’.
He said: “This is what I call revolutionary because some will associate the manufacture and the sale of liquor as pure economics. But I have seen in the first consultation, the key industries, the rum industry and the NCSA taking the leadership to ensure that not only is it [seen as] an economic activity but it has a social element to it and one that we must monitor and one that we must change, deconstruct and reconstruct to ensure that there is no abuse as it relates to drinking and driving…”
Meanwhile, speaking to the media on the sidelines of the consultation, the Small Business Minister emphasized the removal of this commercial activity from the magistracy jurisdiction would bring it to a civil jurisdiction under the Ministry of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce.
There, he added, it would be placed under the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, which would have overall responsibility for enforcing legislation. Adding it would also see the creation of a Liquor Licence Authority set up to police the legislation, he stressed this too would ensure business and commerce are conducted in a civil way.
Recalling the frustration and concerns seen previously, Mr. Sutherland said: “When we did our mapping and background research we saw some business indeed was held up. Business as it relates to the sale of liquor 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…
“We found when we mapped the process we had some 1,000 liquor licences sitting down in the Holetown Court waiting to be approved… This is way too long and it took as long as three months to have a liquor licence approved and those small shops suffered, the small businessman suffered and indeed those manufacturers and other retailers, whether it is in the hotel industry or restaurants. So, we saw the need to address it as it took some 21 days, if the process was seamless, to approve – from application to approval.”
The Small Business Minister commended the Ministry of Innovation, Science and Smart Technology for its role in this mapping process, noting the remodeling of the licensing administration would mean that from application to approval process it should now take seven days, as Government would be utilising an information communication telecommunications platform to ensure “business is indeed done more efficiently”.
According to Mr. Sutherland, with the repeal and replacement of legislation, the seven-day process and the use of a digital platform, significant ease would be afforded to these micro, small and medium-sized businesses, currently frustrated by the system.
Elaborating further, he said: “So, you can apply online via credit card and you can apply online and if you don’t have a credit card, we have set up the facility at the post offices throughout Barbados so you can go and pay. “And, once you pay, then you journey to the Ministry of Small Business, Entrepreneurship and Commerce, where we have an arm called the Liquor Licence Authority and I am speaking assuming that this legislation would come to book very soon.”