Alcohol use high even after ban on license

According to a research carried out by the government, the ban or restriction of bar license has not resulted in a decrease in the consumption of alcohol. Instead, the country saw an increasing number of bars and wine shops and also increasing level of alcohol consumption. The government restricted the issuance of bar license in 2010, however, hotels with more than eight rooms were allowed to get bar license.

Economic Affairs Minister, Loknath Sharma, said that though the ban was intended to reduce the alcohol consumption in the country, the ban has instead led to increasing the illegal sale of alcohol. The practice of selling and hiring of bar licenses became so rampant where people were willing to buy license illegally at Nu 600,000 when the actual license fees ranges from Nu 5,000 to Nu 15,000.

The issue was raised by the Member of Parliament (MP) from Chumey-Ura during the question and answer session in the National Assembly today. The MP asked that the government should inform the House on plans to lift the restriction on bar license.

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that bar license is important component of Bhutanese business and small economic activities besides social functions and gatherings. However, in 2010, the government stopped issuing bar license through suggestion from Dzongdas’ and Gups’ conferences. He stressed that the National Policy and Strategic Framework aimed to reduce harmful use of alcohol, which meant all standalone bars were stopped except hotels with 8 rooms.

He said, “While stopping the license, people might have done some studies and it might have benefited the people and the nation, but I feel that it has not benefitted much because bar license can be acquired by paying Nu 5,000 to Nu 15,000 but people today are willing to buy licence at Nu 500,000 to Nu 600,000 and because of that it has benefitted some people while it has affected others.”

Lyonpo pointed out that the ban has affected the standalone bars mainly in rural areas and a few in urban areas. As the ban is not the best option, therefore, the government should look into other interventions like pricing and taxation, he said.

The ministry has conducted research and collected data to work on improving the current ban on issuance of license. The result of the research is ready to be submitted to the government for further directives on bar licence, Lyonpo said.

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