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The House of Representatives passed amendments to the Spirit Licencing Act on Tuesday (December 4), to extend the opening hours for licenced bars and taverns.

In opening the debate on the Bill, Attorney General Patrick Atkinson, noted that there has been a trend for operators to keep their facilities open well past the 9:00 p.m. cut off time and the police have been making attempts to enforce the prescribed trading hours, leading to confrontations. He said the situation has led to protests in St. Thomas, in particular.

“As a result, owners and operators of such establishment have been prosecuted in some cases and in other cases, receive warnings, and some have been denied licences to a host of events,” Mr. Atkinson said. 

The opening hours for bars are from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays; and on Sundays the hours for taverns are between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Hotels, on the other hand, are allowed to open from 7:00 a.m. until midnight any day of the week.

The proposal is to allow the Minister to fix the opening and closing hours of licenced establishments, by way of Order, which will be subject to affirmative Resolution of both Houses of Parliament.

The amended Bill will allow establishments to be able to open from 7:00 a.m. to midnight, Mondays through Saturdays, and from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. on Sunday.

Opening hours for hotels remain the same and the criteria for licences will not be reviewed at this time.          

In his comments, Leader of the Opposition Business in the Lower House, Delroy Chuck, commented that the Bill was a “much needed legislation and in many respects, will regularise some of what has been happening across the length and breadth of Jamaica.”

Member of Parliament for South East St. Elizabeth, Richard Parchment, welcomed the passage of the legislation.

“There has been strict enforcement of the law recently, and when I keep my meetings, the police are always saying that you are the law maker, you deal with it. So I support the amendment to the legislation and I am certain that the people of South East St. Elizabeth particularly the owners of bars and taverns will welcome it as well,” Mr. Parchment said. The legislation was passed without any amendments.