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Bar license liberalization once regulation is ready

By Phurpa Wangmo

Despite flak and criticisms from the general public, the Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) has stated the moratorium on ban of bar licenses will be lifted once a regulation to reduce alcohol consumption is ready.

The Economic Affairs Minister, Loknath Sharma, shared this during his recent visit to Sarpang dzongkhag.

Members of the business community in the district said that the ban has only led to an increase in illegal activities. They even added that fronting cases are rampant, with people operating bars with the licenses of others.

A member of the dzongkhag business development committee in Sarpang said it will also help the government to generate revenue and also help curb fronting and corruption as bar licenses are sold at unbelievable prices.

A shopkeeper said that getting a bar license has become the luxury of the rich as big hotels, despite the ban, are issued bar licenses while small establishments are ignored. This, he said, was not okay.

The Economic Affairs Minister, Loknath Sharma said they are aware of the issue and said the ministry has already proposed to lift the ban of bar license issuance. However, MoEA were told to wait until the Alcohol Reduction and Control Policy was readied.

He said the Ministry of Health has advised MoEA to keep it on hold for some time as experts are still working on the issue.

Earlier, the Prime Minister’s Office stated that the health ministry is preparing an alcohol reduction regulation that could be ready by next year. The government said they are likely to lift the ban once the policy is complete.

The government suspended the issuance of bar licenses in 2010 after the DPT-led government deliberated on the issue in the parliament and gave the nod to end the issuance of bar licenses.

However, despite the ban, there were seepages through which big business establishments could still get a license defeating the very purpose of the ban. 

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