Bars and restaurants get licence fee break
Legislators today slashed liquor licence fees in half in a bid to lift the spirits of a hospitality sector hammered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Opposition One Bermuda Alliance agreed to fast-track the Liquor Licence (Fee Reduction) Temporary Amendment Act 2021 through all three readings in one day to rush the measure through.
Kathy Lynn Simmons, the Attorney-General, told the House of Assembly that the hospitality sector had been “devastated“ by health restrictions.
She said a closure order for bars and other licensed premises in response to recent outbreaks of infection had been tough for the sector to swallow.
Ms Simmons added the legislation would cut the cost of licences for the next year – but that it could be extended if needed.
The cost of liquor licences for premises from hotels and restaurants to nightclubs, bars and members’ clubs will all be cut.
Scott Pearman, the Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs and Transport, said the Opposition had given up the usual Parliamentary debate to speed the legislation.
But Mr Pearman asked if retailers such as liquor stores, gas stations and wine shops could get a break as well.
But Chris Famous, a Progressive Labour Party backbencher who sits on the Liquor Licensing Authority, said that liquor store sales had jumped over past year – while bars and other premises had to endure a string of shutdowns.
Ms Simmons agreed that off-licences had not been hit to the same extent as bars and restaurants.
She said: “The Bill is not aimed at achieving equity among licence holders, but making sure the most exposed are given some relief.”
Cole Simons, the Opposition leader, suggested making the Act retroactive to last March.
But Ms Simmons said there was “no intention at this time” to backdate the break.