Economic ministry to present bar license issue to cabinet

The economic affairs ministry has prepared rules on re-issuing bar licenses to present to the cabinet and is looking forward to a positive response, said Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma yesterday during the National Assembly’s question and answer session.

Lyonpo was responding to a question raised by the MP for Chumig-Ura, Bumthang, Karma Wangchuk who said that the ministry must respond to, clear doubts, and provide evidence and data to the cabinet on the issue.

Lyonpo said the government has not discussed lifting the bar licenses in respecting the National Policy and Strategic Framework to Reduce Harmful Use of Alcohol, 2015-20 which ends by December 31, 2020.

In December 2015, the 90th session of the Lhengye Zhungtshog approved the policy to foster government approach to reducing harmful use of alcohol.

Additionally, Lyonpo said the efforts to control the harmful use of alcohol grew in the country, and then the government stopped the issuance of license for a stand-alone bar, following the concerns raised by dzongdags and gups during their annual conferences.

Lyonpo also mentioned that the bar license was issued only to tourist hotels from 2011 to 2013. However, considering the livelihood of some license holders depending on bar business, the license was also given to hotels with a minimum of eight rooms, irrespective of star ratings from 2014. Issuance of liquor retail trade license was also put on halt from 2014, he added. According to the Lyonpo, some availed the license during the issuance stating that the building was for hotel purposes and later converted it to residence.

Lyonpo said that despite all these measures, the number of distribution outlets, both bar, and liquor retail trade has increased over the years.

As per the economic ministry, there are 4,253 bars, 598 retail liquor shops, and 195 liquor wholesalers.

Lyonpo said the moratorium on the issuance of bar license has led to a multitude of illegal activities such as leasing or selling of the licenses and sale of alcohol without a license. “It is not the right time to issue a license as bars and entertainment centers are closed or are on verge of closing due to the pandemic.”

Thukten Zangpo from Thimphu