Public drinking poses problem on island

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 12, No. 11            March 21, 2002

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A recently enacted amendment to the country's Intoxicating Liquor Licensing Act is probably the most hard to abide by most of the residents and visitors to San Pedro. After so many years, drinking in public is a hard habit to break, but the new law will hopefully reduce the number of broken bottles littering the communities of Belize. Law enforcement officers customarily recognize a "grace" period whereby warnings are given to offenders until the general public becomes accustomed to the new law. Local police officers state "warnings have been given unless circumstances deem it necessary for harsher measures to be taken." Owners of liquor establishments are requested to inform their patrons of the ban on public drinking as well, or face possible penalties under the law if patrons are found guilty of a violation.

    As a reminder, the new section (44A) "Prohibition of public drinking" 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 does not apply to the driver of a motor vehicle. Public drinking is now considered an offense and the following fines apply: first offense - $25; second offense - $50; third offense - $100 plus 50 hours of community work. 

    Following the first meeting of the Liquor Licensing Committee, several establishments were given provisional licenses. For these businesses to continue operating, conditions must be met within a certain time period. "Nuisance" bars, or liquor establishments with a number of complaints waged against them, must conform to better standards. Publican Special and Night Club licenses wishing to conduct business after midnight must comply with soundproofing regulations. Random inspections will be conducted by liquor licensing committee members and/or personnel from the Department of the Environment, the ministry responsible for upholding this part of the Act. Those needing to meet special conditions will be reviewed at the next quarterly meeting of the San Pedro Liquor Licensing Committee.

    Any concerns, comments or complaints regarding local establishments or 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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