Chhimi Dema

The government would lift the ban on issuing new bar licences, according to economic affairs minister, Loknath Sharma.

Issuing new bar licences in the country was suspended in 2010.

Responding to a question from Chhumig-Ura’s Member of Parliament, Karma Wangchuk, Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said that the government conducted studies on lifting the ban after it assumed office.

He said studies showed there were both pros and cons of lifting the ban. “With the ban, there were no indications of any reduction in alcohol consumption.”

He also said it showed issuing new licences did not pose many implications. “After the ban since 2010, about 1,000 bar licenses were issued to hotels that have more than eight rooms.”

Lyonpo Loknath Sharma said some people have resorted to converting their residences to a hotel to acquire bar licence and then changed it back to residence and sold the licence.

He said the government implements the National Policy and Strategic Framework to Reduce Harmful Use of Alcohol 2015-2020, which was endorsed in 2015. The policy aimed to improve health, social and economic conditions in the country by preventing and reducing the harmful use of alcohol.

Lyonpo Loknath said they could not lift the ban earlier since the policy and framework was to be implemented till 2020 and making changes to it was disrespectful to the previous decision-makers.

“As the implementation period of the policy ends this year, the Ministry developed rules and regulation on how to issue the bar licence and would submit to the Lhengye Zhungtshog,” he said.

The delay in issuance of a new licence, Lyonpo said was due to the pandemic situation. “At this time when hotels, restaurants and bars close at 9pm, it is not appropriate to issue the licence and open new bars.”