As Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, I am pleased to inform the public that the Liquor Licence Amendment Bill 2019 was tabled in the Legislature this morning to introduce much needed reforms to our liquor licensing laws.
The Bill marks the first comprehensive reform of the Liquor Licence Act, which came into operation 45 years ago in 1974. This reform is a milestone in Government’s efforts to ensure that alcohol is sold or supplied within a comprehensive legal framework that provides various stringent licensing requirements.
The amendments will modernize the application process for a licence or permit by reconstituting the Liquor Licensing Authority as one authority rather than separate licensing authorities for three licensing districts.
The structure of a Liquor Licensing Authority for each of the three licensing districts has been in place since 1974, which ensured representation from each parish on each separate Liquor Licencing Authority. The Senior Magistrate is the statutory chairman of each licensing authority with the Governor appointing the deputy chair and the remaining members of each licensing authority (three residents from each parish within a licensing district).
The Bill proposes a modernized single Liquor Licencing Authority that has 7 members, as opposed to 10, appointed by the Minister responsible for liquor licensing. One of the anticipated benefits of reforming the structure of the Liquor Licensing Authority is the selection of members to represent different professional backgrounds and sectors of the economy in accordance with prescribed criteria. In particular, the membership of the reformed Liquor Licensing Authority will include:
- a barrister with at least 8 years’ experience;
- a person with knowledge of and a background in security;
a person with knowledge, experience and expertise in drug treatment and prevention or social work;
- a person with knowledge and experience in the hospitality industry; and
a person with knowledge and experience in the retail sector.
The Bill makes provision for a catering permit to allow the holder of a Restaurant Licence under the Liquor Licence Act 1974 to sell or supply alcohol at events catered at a venue outside of the restaurant. In addition, a person who operates an itinerant restaurant may be granted a licence authorizing that person to sell or supply intoxicating liquor to persons attending an event or gathering. Provision is also made for the grant of a special event licence for private, non-profit events; public events for profit; or non-profit events held to promote a product through sampling such as wine tasting.
During the 45 years since the Act came into operation, there has been no comprehensive review of the fees charged for granting a liquor licence or the fines imposed for violations. Therefore, the fees and fines under the Act have been modernized as well.
As a complement to these measures, the Minister will issue guidance to assist the public in understanding each class of licence and further streamline the application process.
The amendments to the Bill take into consideration recommendations of the Senior Magistrate as Chairman of the Liquor Licensing Authorities, social and legal concerns as well as commercial interests. The Bill aims to address stakeholder concerns and reflects modern practices regarding alcohol sale, consumption and regulation.