Ministry framing rules to resume issuance of bar licenses after 2020: MoEA Minister

During the Question Hour session at Fourth Session of the Fourth Parliament, Member of Parliament of Chumey Ura constituency asked the Economic Affairs Minister questions on the bar license to be issued to the people.

The Economic Affairs Minister, Loknath Sharma, said that the moratorium on issuance of bar license has led to multitude of illegal activities, such as leasing or selling of the licenses, sale of alcohol without license, etc.

Economic Affairs Minister said that such behaviors have brought in added pressure on the limited staff of the regional office of the ministry to monitor the issue. Further, the moratorium has deprived genuinely interested citizens of their economic rights.

“The concern over negative impact of alcohol in the country was evident as early as 1988 when the government restricted issuance of bar license in the towns of southern Bhutan. In the subsequent years, efforts to control harmful use of alcohol constantly grew. And in 2010 the government stopped issuance of license for stand-alone bars, following the concerns raised by Dzongdags and Gups during their Annual Conference,” Lyonpo said.

The minister said, “From 2011 – 2013, bar license was issued only to tourist standard hotels. However, considering that the livelihood of some license holders depend on bar business, license was also given to hotels with minimum 8 rooms, irrespective of star ratings from 2014. Issuance of liquor retail trade license was also put on halt from 2014.”

He also said that in December 2015, the 90th Session of the Lhengye Zhungtshog approved the “National Policy and Strategic Framework to Reduce Harmful Use of Alcohol 2015-2020” to bring in whole of government approach to reducing harmful use of alcohol.

Economic Affairs Minister added that the National Policy and Strategic Framework to Reduce Harmful Use of Alcohol 2015-2020 expires by 31 December 2020.

The ministry has already prepared rules on how to resume the issuance of bar licenses and is looking forward positively.

He said the number of distribution outlets (bar and liquor retail trade) has increased over the years. Today there are 4,253 bars, 598 retail liquor shops and 195 liquor wholesalers.

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