The Government of the Virgin Islands is seeking to modernise the processes which guide liquor licencing in the Territory through a bill entitled “Liquor Licences Act, 2019”.

The bill was brought before the House of Assembly for a second and third reading by Premier Dr the Honourable Natalio Wheatley on November 15th.
There, Wheatley reflected on the necessity of updating the existing legislation which, he noted, was last amended in 1981.

“The legislation governing the sale or manufacture of intoxicating liquor in the Virgin Islands has been in need of update for quite some time, and through the Liquor Licence Act 2019 it is hoped that this honourable house would be able to modernise the statutory framework. This bill is a product of a considerable volume of work done over the past several years, therefore I know it will be a relief to many persons to see that their hard work has borne fruit in the form of a modernised legislative framework”, he said.

Wheatley said that given the age of the existing act, which was enacted in May 1964, a special committee was appointed to review the act and make recommendations to cabinet for changes to the act.

On this committee sat an extensive list of local officials inclusive of the Attorney General, Director of Public Prosecutions, Permanent Secretary of the Deputy Governor’s Office, a representative from the Governor’s Office, Financial Secretary, Commissioner of Inland Revenue, Chief Fire Officer, Chief Environmental Health Officer, Chief Physical Health Planning Officer, Director of Trade and Consumer Affairs and the BVI Chamber of Commerce and Hotel Association.

The committee was formed in April 2014 and submitted its report to the Cabinet in 2015.

Wheatley noted that the Cabinet accepted the document and its recommendations and subsequently moved forward with discussions for a new act with the Attorney General’s Office. Within this new act, he noted several major developments including the formation of a Liquor Licensing Board.

“Part two included provisions to establish a Licensing board that will manage and execute the process of issuing liquor licences. Currently, as per section 16, persons applying for a licence are required to appear before the Licensing Magistrate… who grants the licence if he or she considers that it should be granted… The Licensing Board will be established to, among other things, receive and decide on applications for liquor licences or renewal of liquor licences”, he said.

The new act also calls for a change in the mechanisms currently used to conduct site inspections and seeks to replace the use of police officers with that of trained public officers.

“Presently, inspections for the liquor licence process are done by police officers. The new proposal under sections seven and eight of part three is for the minister to designate suitable public officers to act as inspectors for the purpose of inspecting premises where a notice of application is made for a liquor licence or where liquor is sold. The idea, Madam Speaker, is to have a team of trained inspectors to conduct the inspections, guided by the requirements of the act”, Wheatley explained.