Alcohol farm

1,282 restaurants authorized to sell alcohol in 10 days

Mixed reactions to the government’s decision

Tashi Dema

The Ministry of Economic Affairs (MoEA) has licensed 1,282 restaurateurs to sell alcohol in the last 10 days since the government decided to allow restaurants to serve alcohol.

Data compiled by the ministry showed that from June 1 to June 10, the ministry licensed 379 restaurateurs to sell alcohol in Sarpang, followed by 159 in Thimphu and 132 in Samdrupjongkhar. The restorers of the 20 dzongkhags had asked for approval. A restaurateur from Gasa has also obtained approval.

The numbers will rise as officials have confirmed there are around 9,000 restaurants in the country that could sell alcohol after the ministry scrapped the bar licensing system allowing restaurants to serve alcohol.

It comes after Parliament lifted the moratorium on bar, wine and liquor retail licenses on December 9 last year.

The 2022 Rules and Regulations for the Operation of Restaurants and Retail Wine and Spirits Businesses state that all restaurants that are not attached to or combined with a grocery store, general store or other business activity could serve alcohol . It prescribes that restaurants must be equipped with adequate seating to guarantee the hygiene, safety and comfort of customers.

While the move should prevent people who owned bar licenses and rented them out to others at huge cost from taking advantage of the moratorium, many expressed concern that the easy availability of alcohol would make the problem of l ‘alcohol.

A health official in a dzongkhag where alcohol is a serious problem said easy access to alcohol will have more impact on people’s health and social problems.

According to the 2022 annual health report, there were 31.5 people with alcohol-related liver disease out of every 10,000 people in 2021.

Mental and behavioral disorders due to alcohol consumption fell from 925 in 2017 to 1,906 in 2021.

A company employee said alcohol-related illnesses are among the biggest health burdens in the country today and that making it available in all restaurants would make the situation worse. He cited the example of how alcoholism leads to social and economic loss. “Alcohol has been recognized as the leading cause of road accidents, deaths, injuries and cases of domestic violence in the country. It will only get worse. »

Another Thimphu resident said making alcohol available in all restaurants was a policy mistake. “Alcohol is the main cause of many crimes, including domestic violence. The government has failed to understand this aspect of the alcohol problem. He also said youth-related crime will increase due to easy access to alcohol.

Although the rules and regulations clearly state that restaurants and retail stores in schools, colleges, universities, TVET institutes, public offices and institutions, hospitals, dzongs and dratshangs will not be permitted to sell alcohol, they also stipulate that any Bhutanese aged 18 and above could avail of the license to sell alcohol.

A netizen said Bhutanese are doomed to self-inflicted social catastrophe if the legal age limit is not raised to 21 from 18. Alcohol should not be readily available to them as domain or tokens.

Ineffective ban

But many backed the government’s decision, arguing that the moratorium on issuing bar licenses from 2010 did not reduce alcohol consumption, but increased illegal alcohol sales, the facade, as well as the unethical trading and operation of many illegal bars. “Everyone knows the rule hasn’t been effective. Alcohol is available everywhere,” said one.

Meanwhile, in a remote village of Zhemgang, eight of nine women Kuensel spoke to in the village said they were drinking almost every day.

They said they drink because their work is tiring and exhausting. “A cold beer after a hard day helps us relax,” said a 37-year-old woman. Empty beer bottles stacked as high as the single storey store is an indication of how much they are consuming.

As alcohol is part of all cultural and religious activities in the village, the women said they could not stop drinking. “Even when we go to work on other people’s farms, they serve us alcohol,” said another woman.

Village health officials visit every household and ask residents to calculate how much money and time they are wasting on alcohol, but this does not help villagers quit drinking.