Legislation is being implemented to establish a special board to approve liquor licenses and to make it mandatory for businesses to install surveillance cameras and hire security guards in order to get a license to sell alcoholic beverages.
This legislation has been titled the Liquor License Act and is currently being deliberated in the House of Assembly.
Giving an overview of the Bill on Thursday, June 18, Premier Andrew Fahie said establishing a Liquor Licensing Board will lift the burden from the Magistrate’s Court who is currently responsible for approving liquor licences.
Composition of Liquor Licensing Board
The Liquor Licensing Board will comprise a legal practitioner, a representative of the BVI Tourist Board, and a representative from the Ministry of Finance nominated by the Finance Minister. The Licensing Board will also include a senior member of the police force as well as persons with backgrounds in social work and religion.
“This is a very revolutionary process that is being done by the Government of the Virgin Islands,” the Premier said. “There is going to be a Liquor Licensing Board and this goes to ensure that the business of the people is put in such a process that it speeds up the licensing and the whole processing of the liquor licensing, and also in terms of the payment and the renewal and everything that needs to be done to help business people to move a lot faster, more efficient, and even more accessible.”
Licensing process streamlined
Contributing to the debate on the legislation, government minister Kye Rymer noted that the Liquor Licensing Board also eliminates other departments from the process.
For example, the current process requires persons applying for a temporary license to do so through the Deputy Governor’s Office.
“With the presence of this Bill, it would eliminate that tedious process,” Rymer stated.
Security guards and cameras
In the meantime, government legislator Dr Wheatley has called on local business owners to familiarize themselves with the legislation.
“For instance, this Act will tell you that you have to have working security cameras, and while it might be an expense on the business owner, I think in these days and times the BVI is not as it was before,” he stated.
He continued: “If you have an establishment with 50 persons or less, you have to have one security officer. If you have between 50 and 100 persons, you need two security officers and a hundred or more you will need three security officers.”
He said even small businesses such as ‘mom and pop shops’ selling liquor must also comply with the requirements.
Offences and penalties
The legislation also addresses the offence of selling liquor to minors.
“If you so much as get a minor to buy a drink for yourself, you can face a $1,000 fine. If an adult buy a drink for a minor that is another $1,000 fine,” he stated.
He said the Act also places responsibility on the establishments that would allow persons who are drunk to enter into an establishment and to serve them alcoholic beverages.
He said this is an offence and non-compliant owners will be prosecuted.
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