Liquor fees ‘could hit jobs’
Increases in Bermuda's liquor licensing fees and fines could result in job losses, the Leader of the Opposition has warned.
Craig Cannonier said it was “extremely concerning” that fees had doubled from $1,500 to $3,000 a year in the case of restaurants.
Mr Cannonier, who declared an interest as a businessman who sold liquor, said: “Some of those companies are already struggling.
“They first start looking at labour. Therein lie some of the challenges and it won't bode well for some small to medium-sized businesses.”
Mr Cannonier was speaking as the Liquor Licensing Amendment Act was passed in Parliament on Friday.
David Burt, the Premier, said that the fee increases were “negligible” and had not been raised in a “very long time”.
Kim Wilson, the health minister, added that it had been 44 years since the last increases.
But Scott Pearman, the Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs, said that the fees and fines had been raised in 1990, 1998 and again in 2016.
Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the shadow health minister, said that the increases were not negligible. She added: “Add those little extras and it adds up to real money.”
She predicted the increases would be passed on to consumers.
Mr Burt said that the increases did not apply to members' clubs or sports clubs.
The amendments will also allow alcohol to be served at special events such as outdoor weddings, or catering events run by eligible restaurants.
Ms Wilson said “itinerant restaurants” such as food trucks would be able to apply, as well as organisers of special events such as wine tasting, or promotional parties.
She added concerns had been raised by the Bermuda Tourism Authority about weddings on the island being put in jeopardy under the old law.
The legislation will also do away with the former system of having three authorities for the island's nine parishes and replace them with a single body.
MPs heard the application process will be streamlined and it is planned to make it an online exercise.
The minister will also have the authority to appoint licence inspectors.
Christopher Famous, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher, said there should be enough inspectors to monitor the 300-plus liquor licensees.
Mr Cannonier also suggested that Government should send out reminders to businesses that their licences were due to expire.
Members on both sides of the House agreed that the legislation would help to make applications for liquor licences more efficient.
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