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Baron to tackle bars allowing crime

Senator Jeff Baron

National security minister Senator Jeff Baron has vowed to clamp down on antisocial and criminal behaviour in licensed premises.

Mr Baron spoke to The Royal Gazette about the intended changes to the Liquor Licensing Act after they were outlined in this month’s Throne Speech.

The Bermuda Government manifesto said that drinking establishments “often serve as magnets” for unsavoury and illegal activity, and promised to “enhance the powers of a senior police officer to temporarily suspend a liquor licence when warranted”.

Mr Baron called the latter statement “absolutely critical”, as it would provide a financial incentive for bar owners to confront the problems inside their venues. “I don’t think it’s a surprise to people that there are licensed premises which not only enable criminal behaviour, but openly facilitate it. And that has to stop,” he said.

“Known gang members are fighting and committing crime in these establishments. I have a huge issue with that and it will not happen.”

Mr Baron said that the decision had been taken after deliberation with senior magistrate Juan Wolffe, the Bermuda Police Service and the Attorney-General Trevor Moniz.

He added that in the past month alone, he had visited more than a dozen licensed premises to encourage their owners’ participation and collaboration.

“The onus is on owners to make the necessary changes, or police may feel it necessary to close their bar down for a week.

“If this continues to happen over and over again, I don’t think they could sustain their business.”

Mr Baron insisted that the legislation was not “taking square aim” at the service industry, but rather prioritising the safety and peacefulness of Bermuda’s wider community.

“Anyone in a criminal network who proliferates fear and crime, their lives should be made uncomfortable until they start making better choices,” he added.