Bhutan Karaoke Association highlights concerns over mega festive events

The recent surge in mega festival events held in the capital has raised concerns among club owners, karaoke operators, and party organizers, threatening the survival of their businesses. The Bhutan Karaoke Association, representing a group of party, club, and pub owners, has taken the matter to the Thimphu Thromde, urging authorities to address the negative impact these events are having on the licensed entertainment industry.

The letter addressed to Thimphu Thromde highlights the struggles faced by the entertainment establishments during the COVID-19 pandemic. After enduring a two-year closure period due to mass gathering restrictions, the businesses were finally allowed to reopen with restricted operating hours. However, the recent influx of mega festivals has once again put their existence at risk.

The Karaoke Association emphasizes the rigorous compliance procedures they must adhere to in order to obtain licenses from various regulatory bodies, including the Entertainment Licensing Committee (ELC), Ministry of Economic Affairs, Royal Bhutan Police, BAFRA, and BNC. They argue that the easy permits for mega events undermines their efforts to maintain standards such as effective soundproofing, designated smoking areas, security measures, and strict age restrictions on entry and alcohol consumption.

While the association supports the idea of providing a platform for artists and musicians, they believe it should be within an environment that upholds the rules and regulations set by the Entertainment Licensing Committee.

One of the party owner pointed out the difference in operating hours, He shared that the mega events are permitted to continue till 3 am on weekdays while his licensed entertainment party hall was forced to stop at 12 am sharp by the police personnel last Wednesday, or threatening to seize the license if they don’t do so.

The association’s proposal suggests limiting the operating hours of mega events to 10 pm allowing restaurants, bars, karaoke outlets, and discotheques to also have a fair chance of operation. They express concerns that the frequency of permits being issued for these events could pose a significant threat to licensed entertainment businesses.

One of the discotheque owner said, “Teens below 18 are freely given alcohol and are seen around roadside fully drunk and smoking.”

While some sectors, such as taxi drivers, have experienced increased profits during these few days of mega festivals, one of the taxi drivers shared that he earned more than Nu 4,000 in just a few hours after midnight.

Alongside their concerns, the association poses several questions to the Thimphu Thromde regarding the mega festival events. Firstly, they inquire about the applicable fees or taxes paid to the Thromde for such events. Secondly, they sought clarity on the approval procedures for these events. Thirdly, they raised concerns about whether the mega event organizers hold legal business licenses with valid TPN registration. Lastly, they inquire about the existence of a transparent bidding or tender process that justifies the issuance of such permits, benefiting the Thromde, specific NGOs, or Revenue and Customs.

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