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“Drink a rum on Christmas morning”: nightclub hours extended to 2:00 am, regular hours restored for liquor sales on Christmas weekend

Posted: Saturday, December 24, 2022. 3:28 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Government says you can “drink a rum on a Christmas morning” – or any liquor at any point this weekend under the standard rules of operation under the Intoxicating Liquor Licensing Act.

Overruling the decision of the Police Department and Commissioner of Police Chester Williams, a Press Office statement says “Cabinet has decided that all liquor-licensed premises will be allowed to operate on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day” up to the following opening hours: restaurants, 12 midnight; night clubs, 2 a.m.; shop and beer licenses, 9 p.m.; Publican Special, 12 midnight; Publican General, 10 p.m.; Convenience Store, 12 midnight; hotels, 12 midnight; member’s clubs, 3 a.m.; and malt and cider, 11 p.m.

It adds, “In the coming weeks, the Attorney General will prepare draft amendments to the Intoxicating Liquor License Act to reflect the above-mentioned decision.”

On Thursday, the Commissioner defended his decision to reporters, stating that all he intended was to “enforce the law” as reflected in the Act, citing the example of hotels and restaurants which are limited to serving their guests and only those having full meals. But as previously noted, few of the chosen scheduled hours actually correspond to the Act which only prohibits shops and certain other establishments from opening on Christmas Day itself.

The Commissioner also repeated that the less alcohol served, the lesser instances of crime and traffic accidents: “People will be at home celebrating and enjoying with their family – that’s what Christmas is about. Only the Police can’t celebrate with [their] families for Christmas so enjoy the privilege you have, man; many of the police wish they had that opportunity to be at home with their families and they will not be able to. You have it – stay home and enjoy your family; stay sober, or if you want to drink, buy your liquor on the 24th, take it home, and on Christmas Day [you can] drink all day at home. Nothing to worry about.”

Before the Cabinet intervention, residents of Ambergris Caye in particular had obtained a “carve-out” to avoid what would be a first-time experience of “lock down” that, according to the San Pedro Sun, would cost promoters on the island and those who worked for them thousands in profit. One promoter says the event he was promoting had to be cancelled, which will cost money to pay DJs, security personnel, and in some cases international artists who book by contract. Islanders further complain that the decision was not made with proper consultation, especially in tourist areas such as Ambergris and Caye Caulker, Hopkins, Placencia, and Cayo.

Today’s walk-back from the highest authority in the land, we suspect, will not easily mollify those who have already lost out – but Placencia Beach Club co-owner Shane Kenny will take it as a win anyway: “This is a HUGE win for Belize businesses, especially those in tourist areas. This release from the Cabinet demonstrates that the government will no longer cater to personal and religious preferences. Rather, they will act based on the “good of the whole” by allowing businesses to operate within their legal rights. I applaud Prime Minister Briceño and the Cabinet for their action today, and look forward to the amendments promised that will undoubtedly remove the limitations not only on Christmas but also Good Friday.”


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