MoEA waits for directives to issue bar licenses

The Prime Minister says the guidelines are being looked upon and debated among the cabinet members

With the economic affairs ministry having prepared a set of rules and regulations about issuing new bar licenses, the proposal now has been submitted to the Prime Minister’s Officer (PMO). 

This was divulged by Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharma, during the Meet-The-Press session on Friday 6th May, adding that the ministry is now waiting for directives from the PMO.

The minister said the ministry has worked on it and even there is a plan on how it will be issued.

“I am optimistic that it will be issued within a few days of time and as soon as it gets issued by the PMO, then the ministry will make a public announcement and we will go ahead,” Lyonpo said.

Adding on, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering said, “We are going through the guidelines for bar licensing and for improved entertainment centers.”

Lyonchen also said the guidelines are being looked upon and debated among the cabinet members and that in a few days the guidelines will be issued back to the economic affairs ministry.

Meanwhile, Economic Affair Minister Loknath Sharma said bar licenses are already there for tourist standard hotels and restaurants.  

The issuing of bar licenses, according to the minister, would enable many small businesses to sustain themselves.

“There is no better way than to help small-timers to come up and do some businesses on their own to negate the impacts of the pandemic though it is related to alcohol,” the minister said.   

“Once bar licenses are issued, even the ones who lost their jobs can open up a bar, restaurant and hotel to sustain,” the minister said. 

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) had proposed lifting the ban on the issuance of new bar licenses based on feedback and situational analysis with numerous cases of illegal bar outlets hiring, leasing and trading bar licenses.

The Economic Affairs Minister told Business Bhutan earlier that the reason for proposing the lifting of the ban was because of the rise in the number of illegal alcohol sales.

According to the minister, people were willing to purchase bar licenses illegally for Nu 600,000 to Nu 800,000 when the actual fee ranges from Nu 5,000 to Nu 15,000.

Meanwhile, the issuing of bar licenses in the country was stopped in 2010 for the well-being of people’s health. Nevertheless, the policy of prohibiting bar licenses was not proven to be effective as the ministry’s analysis revealed no trace of alcohol reduction.

The ministry had issued about 4,500 bar licenses, about 600 retail liquor shop licenses and 196 liquor wholesalers’ licenses in the country as of November 2, 2021. 

Sonam Tashi from Trashigang