Shop owner complains of unfair competition by  people without liquor license
March 10, 2023

Shop owner complains of unfair competition by people without liquor license

A small businesswoman who plies her liquor trade in the Central Kingstown area is calling on the police to look into persons who are selling liquor without a license.

Speaking to SEARCHLIGHT on condition of anonymity and without wanting to make public the community in which she lives because of fear of reprisal, the businesswoman said she is the only one in her area with a liquor license although there are other persons in the area selling liquor.

She said it is creating an unfair market advantage as her competitors do not have to worry about paying to have a liquor license renewed every quarter while they are also free of the process that it takes to comply with the law.

“Remember the government charges you a tax for liquor license, $120 every quarter, three months, and if you late you have to pay a penalty of $20, but there are other people, other shops nearby, other people who selling in their homes who don’t have a liquor license…

“…and it’s highly unfair for me to be paying liquor license and selling the same alcohol and they not paying. It’s unfair,” the angry woman stressed.

Noting that there are five other persons in her community who compete with her, and while nothing is wrong with competition as there is space for everyone to operate, the woman however wondered why she should be the only one abiding by the law.

“The government needs to look into that because it is unfair that I should be paying and they selling the same alcohol and they are not paying.”

She said she has been observing this practise for about five years now. And when asked how she is sure that these competitors do not have liquor licenses, the woman said she has carried out “my own little investigation”.

Officers at the Inland Revenue Department (IRD) said the police is the entity that should enforce the liquor license requirement; the IRD is only responsible for collecting the fees.

“The police is the one that has to be going around to check and make sure that the liquor license is being paid,” an IRD employee told SEARCHLIGHT.

Explaining the procedure, she said that someone wanting to sell liquor has to get a form from the Licensing Authority, fill it out and take it to the Magistrate’s Court.

After this the police will go to the intended selling area and conduct interviews with persons in the area.

“Once the persons give [a] good review, then the person who applies for the liquor license … will have a hearing at the magistrate court,” and that person will return to the IRD with a certificate the received from the court to pay the liquor license fee which is renewed on a quarterly basis.

There are different types of liquor licenses; among them, Class One/Wholesale ($250); retail town and retail country ($115 and $110 respectively); and Grenadines ($110).

There are also special licenses- among them, an occasional license (for outdoor events) which is $125 per day.

Persons with hotels and bars/restaurants are expected to sometimes hold a bottle license ($250), and a refreshment license ($315). The bottle license and refreshment license go hand in hand.

A police source said persons who are guilty of not paying their liquor license and continue to sell liquor are guilty of an offence.

The officer said in the past persons have had their stocks seized and they have been taken to court.

Volume 14, Chapter 473, section (3) subsection (1) of the Liquor License Act states that, “any person who sells, exposes for sale or disposes any intoxicating liquor without being duly licensed to sell the same, or at any place or in any manner that he is not authorized by his license to sell the same, is guilty an offence under this Act.”

Persons who are selling intoxicating liquor using the wrong liquor license are also advised to get the correct license as they are also guilty of an offence.

The police also have the authority to close shops with certain types of licenses at 10:00 p.m under the Shop (Hours of Opening and Employment) Act, 1942 and the Liquor License Act.

These Acts regulate the opening hours of shops and other premises licensed for the sale of intoxicating liquor, and the limitation of the hours of employment in certain cases.

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