Private Investigator

The Island Newspaper, Ambergris Caye, Belize            Vol. 18, No. 14            April 3, 2008

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Private Investigator:
Q: Does the Liquor Licensing Committee have a new chairman?

A: The San Pedro Liquor Licensing Committee issued a press release on March 18th, 2008. The release stated the following stipulations:

*Extension will be granted only for Special Events such as New Year’s Eve, Easter Holidays, September Celebrations and Christmas.

*Night Club License holders will be granted extensions until 3:00 a.m. and on Special Events until 4:00 a.m.

*Publican’s Special License holders with soundproofed establishments will be granted extension until 1:00 a.m. on Special Events.

*Accordance with section 5 of the Intoxicating Liquor Licensing Act Chapter 150 of the laws of Belize no liquor must be sold on Good Friday, March 21st, 2008 from Thursday midnight to Friday midnight.

Speaking to The San Pedro Sun, ex-Vice Chairman of the Liquor Licensing Committee Pamela Zetina stated that these stipulations are a part of the Intoxicating Liquor Licensing Act Chapter 150. “These are stated in the laws of Belize, they have been there and all we were attempting to do was enforce the laws. As part of the Liquor Licensing Committee that was the task that was entrusted upon us. We were simply attempting to do our job,” she explained.

However, Honorable Manuel Heredia Jr., Minister of Tourism, on Thursday, March 20th, revoked the Liquor Licensing Committee’s decision of having a 24 hour alcohol sale ban on Good Friday. As stated in the release, “No liquor must be sold on Good Friday, March 21st, 2008 from Thursday midnight to Friday midnight.” For years past, San Pedro businesses were on a 12 hour ban for the sale of alcohol on Good Fridays and were allowed to open after the Roman Catholic procession at 6:00 p.m. Businesses united and after a special meeting on Thursday, March 20th, 2008, the Minister of Local Government and Labor Honorable Gabriel Martinez along with the Minister of Tourism Honorable Manuel Heredia Jr. made the decision that establishments that have a “Publican and Special” liquor license may open after 6:00 p.m. on Good Friday. This is a decision that was made in response to the request from local business owners to re-examine the ruling from Monday prohibiting the sale of alcohol at all on Good Friday.

According to Zetina this action prompted three of the nine Liquor Licensing Committee members, Chairman Claudio Azueta, committee member Loida Chi and Zetina, handed in their letters of resignation. Zetina stated that the board and Minister of Tourism Manuel Heredia had a difference in opinions regarding the liquor laws, “I always go by the books and I don’t think that it is something anything that they are not happy it is just something of their principles. I always look towards the best interest of the business community and with this point they did not agree with me in the 12 hour ban. I have to place myself in the position as representative and minister, and the complaints were a lot more, the scale tipped more on the business favor based on the number of complaints. The law states that when there can be no compromise between the board and the public the Minister uses his discretion and he decided to lower the 24 hour ban to 12, as it had been done before. I respect the stand that they took but at the end of the day Minister Martinez opted to decide against them.” It should be noted that both Caye Caulker and Placencia were also allowed the sale of alcohol after 6:00 p.m.

The three open spots in the Liquor Licensing Committee and Giovannie Marin has been appointed Chairman. Other members now include, Councilor Pablo Ico, Cruz Flores, and Lisa Guerrero. Chairman Marin has stated that the committee still plans to carry out with implementing the existing laws but will attempt to be a bit more considerate since San Pedro is a tourist destination. More information on the board’s decisions will be released on next week’s issue after the new Liquor Licensing Committee meets for the first time. Attempts to contact past Chairman Claudio Azueta were unsuccessful.
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