html> Major changes in Liquor Licensing Laws enacted, Ambergris Caye Belize News
Major changes in Liquor Licensing Laws enacted

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 12, No. 7            February 21, 2002

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After several months of meetings with liquor licensing boards, mayors, the general public and the Ministry of Local Government, a bill has been passed to amend the Intoxicating Liquor Licensing Act. Although it appeared in the February 5, 2002, No. 5 issue of the Government Gazette the Act came into effect "the 1st day of February, 2002." According to local authorities, public meetings will be held in the near future to explain the amendments to this Act.

    The "Green Paper" issued by the Mayors' Association of Belize was the first publication to deal with proposed changes to the Act. The major issues of the paper were covered in several editions of this newspaper and on December 27th the association held public consultations with the general public by way of a radio talk show. A few of the Cabinet concerns targeted in the "Green Paper," and addressed specifically in the amendments to the Act, were the unlawful consumption of liquor on the premises of shops (not licensed as such), sales of liquor to persons under the age of 18, public drinking, and the fines and penalties for violation of the laws. 

    Possibly the most alarming change not included in the "Green Paper" consultations is in regard to the sale of cold or "refrigerated" beer. Essentially, beer, shop and hotel licenses will NOT be allowed to sell cold beer any longer. Enacted to deter the number of people illegally consuming beverages on the premises of liquor establishments, new amendments state the following. Beer licenses are for the sale by retail of "unrefrigerated beer or stout only in sealed containers for consumption off the premises." Hotel licenses may sell "liquor by retail for consumption on the premises," but the sale of liquor and unrefrigerated beer, stout or wine in sealed containers is only for consumption off the premises only to hotel guests or a bona fide traveler in person." Shop licenses are defined as "for the sale by retail of liquor and/or unrefrigerated beer, stout or wine for consumption off the premises." On a positive note, the proposed fee changes were reduced for shop licenses and are now urban -$1000 (from $1200) and rural - $500 (from $900).

    Another amendment not included in the "Green Paper" proposals is that of the license category "hotel license (for multiple bars)" which incurs fees of $2500 annually as opposed to a "hotel license (for single bars)" with annual fees of $1500. These fees were increased from proposed fees for hotel licenses published in the "Green Paper" (urban - $1350 and rural - $900).

     Extension of opening hours passed into law (subsection 3A) are as follows: (a) in the case of a hotel, publican special, or special license hours may be extended for a maximum duration of two hours; (b) in the case of a night club license, for a maximum duration of three hours. Fees for hourly rates in respect of these extensions are listed in subsection 3B of the Act.

    Amendments to Section 44 of the Act deals with the underage drinking problem. It reads: 3A) stating that every holder of a license issued under this Act or an employee of such license holder shall, before selling liquor to any person, ascertain and be satisfied that the person is over the age of eighteen years. 3B) Every holder of a publican special license shall, before admitting any person onto any premises operated under such license, ascertain and be satisfied that the person is over the age of eighteen years. Subsection 3C states it is lawful for the license holder or the employee of a license holder to demand an identity card when ascertaining the age of any person before selling any liquor or admitting such person onto the premises.

    In regards to public drinking, a new section (44A) "Prohibition of public drinking" was added which reads (1) Subject to subsection (2), no person shall drink any liquor - a) on any public road; b) in any drain, culvert, street, sidewalk or any other public place, other than a "public place specified" in Section 65. Subsection (2) explains that public drinking in a place specified must be "on the occasion of any public dance, ball, celebration or entertainment, provided that: a) the liquor is not contained in any bottle, glass or metal receptacle; but that the liquor is contained in a plastic receptacle. This section (2) does not apply to the driver of a motor vehicle.

    Substantial fines for violators of certain sections of the liquor licensing laws are listed in a new section (65A) of the Act titled "General penalty" as well as new license categories. Interested persons may read a copy of the amended liquor laws at the San Pedro Town Hall.

    Locally, the complaints registered with the San Pedro Town Liquor Licensing Board were heard a few weeks ago in private meetings with both license holders and complainants. Soundproofing of establishments was the primary complaint for many of those attending. It was decided to give violators the first quarter of this year to make the necessary changes to meet the standards required by the law and then review the actions taken.

    The San Pedro Town Liquor Licensing Board consists of Chairman Santiago Acosta, and members Nicolas Varela, Manuel Del Valle, Hector Salazar and Santiago Vasquez. Ex-oficio members are Mayor Alberto Nuñez, Inspector Linden Flowers and Health Inspector Javier Alpuche.

    Any concerns, comments or complaints regarding local establishments or these amendments may be addressed in writing and mailed to the Liquor Licensing Chairman at P.O. Box 54, San Pedro Town.
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