The public’s feedback is being solicited on the draft Liquor Licence Act, 2018 which seeks to modernise the existing legislation.
The Liquor Licence Act (Cap 106) was enacted on May 11, 1964. It governs the sale or manufacture of intoxicating liquor in the Virgin Islands by wholesale or retail and requires that businesses, persons, or persons in their immediate employment, be duly licenced under the Act.
Given the age of the Act and feedback from the business community, a special committee was appointed to review the Act and make recommendations to Cabinet for changes to improve the process.
Major proposed changes include the establishment of a Licencing Board to receive and decide on new applications or renewals for liquor licences, extension of the licence period from six months to one year, and the provision of an appeals process.
Two new categories have been added, which are the small dealer’s retail licence and the events licence. It is also proposed that two new separate categories, the night club licence and the members’ club licence, replace the club licence in the current legislation.
Provision is also being made for the subject minister to designate suitable public officers to serve as inspectors to inspect premises where liquor is sold or when a new application is being made.
Acting Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Deputy Governor, Mrs. Carolyn Stoutt-Igwe, is encouraging the public to be a part of the process and provide much needed feedback.
Mrs. Igwe said, “We know that a number of business establishments were unable to obtain licences at the December 2017 sitting due to the damages sustained to their properties following Hurricanes Irma and Maria. As a result, they have had to apply to the Deputy Governor’s Office for temporary liquor licences.”
She added, “With the proposed Act, there will be no need to apply for temporary liquor licences. While we have already made direct contact with a number of businesses to receive their feedback, I am encouraging anyone who has an interest in the subject to review the Discussion Paper and the proposed Act and submit timely feedback so that we could present a final draft to Cabinet by the end of this month.”
Under the current Liquor Licence Act (Cap 106), the Magistrate is, for the purposes of the Act, the Licencing Magistrate and has the primary responsibility for the granting of liquor licences. The Act requires the Licencing Magistrate to hold special sittings of the Magistrate’s Court on June 1 and December 1 each year, for the purpose of hearing and considering applications for the sale of intoxicating liquor.
There have been few amendments since the enactment of the Act and the latest revision dates back to 1981. A fifteen member committee, including representatives from the BVI Chamber of Commerce and Hotel Association has met during the past three years to review the licence process. Following the submission of the committee’s report to Cabinet in 2015, the Attorney General’s Chambers prepared the draft Bill which the Committee reviewed and further amendments were made.
The public is now invited to give their comments on the matter before the Committee submits a final Bill to Cabinet for approval. Persons are asked to indicate the relevant section, and/or heading, that appears above the matter on which they are commenting. Electronic copies of the Draft Bill and the discussion paper are located online on the Government’s website at www.bvi.gov.vg. Comments may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or delivered to the Permanent Secretary, Office of the Deputy Governor, located on Fleming Street (upstairs Royal Shop) on or before February 26, 2018.