Bar patrol

HAVE you placed a notice on a wall at your bar which reads: ‘It is my intention to apply for a spirits licence at the next court session’? If you have, please go and get your licence as Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Desmond McKenzie says Government will be cracking down on bar operators who utilise such notices in order to sell alcoholic beverages.

“It is well known that owners and operators of a significant number of establishments believe that they can circumvent the requirements by putting up a notice that says ‘It is my intention to apply for a licence at the next court session’. That is not a spirits licence,” McKenzie argued.

“Your intention to sell is not the licence. The intention of the notice is … to announce a desire to sell alcohol from the premises and it allows objections from members of the public who are against the idea,” he added.

McKenzie, who was speaking yesterday at a function by the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica and the Jamaica Beer, Wines and Spirits Network on the topic ‘Responsibility first: A virtual knowledge forum on the selling and serving of alcohol’, announced that 2,500 people will be on the streets across the island to monitor and ensure regulations are upheld among purveyors of alcoholic beverages.

According to new measures intended to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus in the island, which were announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, from July 1 to August 11, the daily curfew will begin 11:00 pm until 5:00 am from Mondays to Saturdays and 6:00 pm until 5:00 am on Sundays.

Holness also pointed out that bars will be subjected to the existing restrictions and protocols, which include opening at 11:00 am each day an closing one hour before that day’s curfew begins.

Commenting yesterday on the relaxed measures, McKenzie stressed that they are not permanent.

“It means that any extension beyond the 10th of August has to be predicated on emperical data and that is why we will be monitoring to ensure that there is compliance and not only compliance with the protocols established with the industry, but to ensure that protocols where persons who are selling liquor must have the requisite documentation to do so,” he said.

McKenzie noted that while Government is committed to promoting the responsible sale of alcohol, failure to observe the Spirit Licence Act is a major area of weakness recognised among operators of bars, taverns, and other places that sell alcohol.

He said the Act requires those who wish to sell alcohol to apply in writing to a number of state entities, including the court and the public health department.

“Those in the business must understand that one of the areas that we are going to police is not so much to ask for your amusement licence or permit but also to find out where is your spirit licence that affords you the right to sell alcohol,” he said.

“The Government recognises that this widespread breach deprives the public purse of millions of dollars and makes the reaction of a culture of responsible alcohol sale more difficult. This is an issue that will receive proper enforcement attention, as we continue to reclaim the Jamaican economy and society from COVID-19,” the minister added.

According to McKenzie, the role of the entertainment sector will be critical in the recovery of the alcohol and beverage industry.

“The responsible sale of alcohol also takes centre stage in the context of what we are doing as a Government to the reopening of the entertainment sector in a phased way. There is no question that the consumption of alcohol is more than a traction at the vast majority of entertainment events and cultural activities. These events and activities in turn have to be approved by the local authorities,” he said.

Last year, more than 1,000 young people were employed by Government to ensure individuals adhered to the closing of beaches and rivers, with a shift now to bars and taverns.

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