Rethink freeze on liquor licences, DBKL told

Kuala Lumpur City Hall says there are currently more than 2,000 active licences for the sale of alcohol in the city.

PETALING JAYA: A business group has urged Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) to reconsider its freeze on liquor licences.

Speaking to FMT, Malaysia International Chamber of Commerce and Industry executive director Shaun Edward Cheah complained that the decision against issuing new licences had been made without proper consultation with industry players.

He said it would adversely affect the food and beverages industry, hotels, tourism, retailers and “relevant manufacturers and service providers”.

DBKL announced the freeze on Tuesday with immediate effect, saying it was responding to Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa’s call for the government to stop issuing liquor sale licences until laws and guidelines are revised. This followed a spate of fatal drink driving accidents.

But a DBKL spokesman told FMT the decision was made for health and social reasons, not because of the accidents.

“We just want to cap the number of premises selling liquor in the city,” he said. “Presently there over 2,000 active licences.”

Cheah referred to the decision as a “drastic action” and said it could be seen as “unnecessarily punitive and inconsistent with Malaysia’s standing as a stable, diverse, tolerant, progressive and business-friendly country”.

“It sets a dangerous precedence,” he added.

He called for a dialogue between DBKL and “concerned stakeholders” in the interest of “better understanding of the issues” and to seek solutions.

He said the business community was supportive of government initiatives to create a better Malaysia, but he criticised “arbitrary unilateral decisions”, saying these would affect investors’ confidence in the country.

Rosli Affandi, the secretary-general of the National Union of Hotel, Bar and Restaurant Workers, told FMT he believed stricter law enforcement would be more effective than the freezing of licences in reducing the incidence of drink driving.

“People can still buy alcohol from supermarkets, drink at a friend’s house and get behind the wheel,” he said.

Attempts to restrict access, he added, could encourage the growth of a black market.

He said the issue that needed to be addressed was responsible behaviour among drinkers.

He also said the decision would put those wishing to open new hotels and restaurants at a disadvantage.

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