Bar owners are still waiting for new bar licenses to be issued after the Economic Affairs Ministry proposed lifting the ban of issuance of new bar licenses after a decade.
Pema Tenzin, a bar owner from Thimphu has been running the business since 2014 on a leased license.
Pema said that he and a couple of his friends running the bar were relieved to hear the news of issuing of new bar licenses since he will no longer have to pay Nu 15,000 as rent every month for license.
“I hope the new government implements the policy of issuing the new bar license, I have been waiting for a decade now and even after I heard the news of new bar license issuance it has still been a waiting game,” said Pema.
Another bar owner from Paro wishing anonymity said that she is running the bar in fear every day and every time she sees crowds visiting her bar in full national dress, she gets tremor that officials from Trade might have come to check the license.
“I have applied for the bar license ever since I heard that the new bar license will be issued, but it has been long gone and I am still waiting since once I get my license, I can proudly run the business without any fear,” she said.
Minister of Economic Affairs, Loknath Sharma said that according to the Ministry the need of issuing the bar license is vital since it is only affecting the businesses.
“But when it comes to the concern of people’s health we also need to consider if it has brought any impact to the people’s health so we cannot issue the bar license immediately,” said Lyonpo.
“Health Ministry is coming up with the policy to reduce the consumption of alcohol so to issue the bar license immediately can conflict with the MoEA’s policy so we are waiting for the Health Ministry’s policy to come to action as soon as possible so that we can issue the bar license accordingly. Health’s policy will be taking care of the demand side and the issuance of the bar license will be taking care of the supply side, “said Lyonpo.
Lyonpo said that it might not take very long for the policy to come up.
Health Ministry has requested the MoEA to hold the policy of issuing the bar license until the regulation is set.
Lyonpo also mentioned that the idea of lifting the issuance of bar license is to cut down the unethical practice of leasing the bar license.
It was learnt that there was no evidence that the implementation of banning the new bar license policy had reduced alcohol consumption in the country.
According to the annual health bulletin 2020, usage of alcohol in the country still remains high with two out of five Bhutanese currently drinking alcohol and it is a major killer.
Meanwhile Bhutanese business people without licenses are still operating bars on rental licenses which has not only cut shot the economic growth of the genuine bar runner but also brought fear in the bar runner for hiring the license.