Exiting bar license holders in dilemma to convert their license

The MoEA’s notification states that they may amend the rules and regulations from time to time

While many restaurant owners welcomed the decision that permits all restaurants to sell alcohol/wine without a bar license, some people who had already renewed their bar license prior to the notification of the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) are unsure of whether they should convert their bar license into a restaurant license or keep it as it is.

As per the notification of the MoEA on June 1, all the restaurants would be permitted to sell alcohol/wine without a bar license and the existing bar license will be converted into a restaurant license from the coming renewal year.

Many restaurant owners welcomed the decision, saying that it is a good step to stop the black market and curtail the improper use of bar licenses.

“I just renewed my bar license for a year and when I went to convert the bar into a restaurant license, the ministry said that it is not essential to convert the license,” said a bar owner in Thimphu, who had already renewed his license for Nu 15,000 recently.

Another bar owner, who renewed his license, said, “Is it possible for the competent authorities to be flexible when determining the prohibited boundary?”

He also urged the government to not confuse them in order to avoid unnecessary problems.

Meanwhile, the MoEA’s notification states that all the restaurants are allowed to serve liquor if they wish, without requiring a separate bar license.

Additionally, another concern among bar owners is about what will happen if the government changes the next year and it then decides to retain separate bar licenses and restaurant licenses.

“This is one reason preventing us from converting our license. If I change the bar license to a restaurant license, we will have difficulty later because getting a bar license is already challenging,” one of the bar owners said.

Meanwhile, there are also concerns that as a result of this decision, alcohol will be readily available at all times and in all places.

“We have already seen the statistics for individuals dying from alcohol usage and now we will see more,” said Kinzang, one of the residents of Thimphu.

Another resident, Pema Tashi said, “Because alcohol is so readily available here, it is now freely accessible despite the fact that many family members and children are victims of alcohol abuse.”

Meanwhile, the ministry’s notification also states that they may amend the rules and regulations from time to time.

An official from the MoEA said, “Things with restrictions are more alluring and things left abandoned have less appeal. If everyone is granted a bar license with the necessary rules in place, there might not be much of an impact.”

He added that regardless of the circumstances, drinking will continue as long as societal issues, prejudice, unemployment, marriage dissolution, and broken relationships exist.

Tshering Pelden from Thimphu