21 drayangs and nine discotheques were found selling alcohol through hired bar licenses
Business: A recent inspection by the Department of Industry found that only 11 of the total 42 drayangs (entertainment centres) across the country owned bar licenses while 21 others were serving alcohol through ‘hired’ bar licenses.
The nationwide inspection was done to completely stamp out the use of hired bar licenses in drayangs and discotheques.
There are 42 drayangs and 25 discotheques across the country today. Two drayangs were found operating without a bar license, while others were not in operation at the time of inspection.
Department of Industry’s director, Tandin Tshering, said some discotheques and drayangs produced their spouse’s license, which is also considered hiring.
“In some cases, the draying was registered in the husband’s name and the bar license in the wife’s name,” the director said.
The inspection also found that only six discotheque owners had bar licenses of their own while nine were operating through other’s license. One was found operating without a bar license and nine others were not in operation during the inspection.
Director Tandin Tshering said that those involved in such deals have made some “internal arrangement” and for now the businesses aren’t closed.
A fine of Nu 2,000 would be imposed if a person were caught using someone’s license to sell alcohol. The owner of the license would not be fined, but his license would be cancelled, he said.
“The cancellation of license would be enough punishment for the license holder,” he said. “The license is given to operate and not to give it to someone.”
However, there is an option. The department allows ownership transfer of bar licenses.
The director said that the government does not restrict transfer of ownership but was against hiring out bar licenses. “We want to stop this ransacking behavior of renting out bar licenses on exorbitant prices,” he said.
This means even restaurant owners cannot use bar license on hire. Inspection has already started and will be carried out through out the country.
“Slowly, we will spread our wings to other places,” Tandin Tshering said adding that it’s not that difficult to do business that doesn’t involve selling alcohol.
Drayang owners said they have been given some time to buy bar licenses even though it would be expensive.
Chencho of Dorji Norgaey drayang, who was using his friend’s bar license, said the implementation of the rule caught them by surprise and that they have been left with difficult options. He said if the government doesn’t issue bar license to drayangs, they would either have to buy license or close the business.
“Officials tell us to buy license, but it would cost about Nu 300,000 to Nu 400,000, which would be too much for small business people like us,” he said.
If drayangs are closed, he said the government has to think about the livelihood of those working there. Besides paying taxes and renewal fees, he said draying owners pay about Nu 2,000 to Nu 3,000 monthly to those who hire out their bar licenses.
Chencho said the issue is mainly affecting those drayangs that opened after the issuance of bar licenses was stopped in 2010.
Tandin Yoezer of Yoezer Drayang said as long as the owners pay taxes to the government, there should be no issue against hiring of license. He also does not have his own bar license.
“Bar and drayangs are inseparable and without a bar there is no drayang,” he said. “After the officials told us that it’s illegal to use hired licenses, the price of bar license has shot up.”
Another drayang owner said that besides the cost of bar license, the inspection would cause the monthly hiring charge to increase as well.
Although drayang owners argue that their businesses cannot sustain without selling alcohol, director Tandin Tshering said that the exercise to control the use of alcohol was to protect the society. He said the bar license was only issued to hotels and that if drayangs were to be given bar licenses, most business entities would ask for the same.
“We are not issuing bar license to every Tom, Dick and Harry,” he said. “Through the sale of alcohol, the client’s health is harmed besides alcohol also causes many social problems.”
By MB Subba