Hotels with more than 100 beds will be allowed to sell alcohol on inhabited islands – such as Male’ – according to new regulations approved by the Ministry of Trade and Economic Development.
In addition to tourist hotels, bars at the airport departure terminal will be authorised to sell alcohol. Diplomats at the ambassador level will also be eligible for liquor permits.
The illegal imports law 4/75 authorises the ministry to formulate such regulations. The new law applies to both alcohol and pork products, and will go into effect from 1 March.
The new regulations for liquor licenses were proposed in November 2009, but were withdrawn shortly afterwards due to public outcry and opposition from the Islamic Ministry.
State Minister of Trade Adhil Saleem said a hotel seeking to acquire a liquor license under the new regulations would be required to follow the government’s “strict rules” on the sale of alcohol.
Hotels will not be allowed to have a bar that is visible from the outside, and it must only serve foreigners. Furthermore, the alcohol can only be sold and consumed in designated areas of the hotel.
Maldivians cannot be employed at the bar and all employees of the bar must be registered with the economic development ministry and undergo a police check. Security cameras must be installed in both the serving area and storerooms, and back-up recordings kept.
Moreover, an inventory of the alcohol in storage and daily sales must be maintained and made available to police on request.
Saleem believes a side effect of the new license regulations will be “the proper disposal of empty liquor bottles”.
“Now, it’s not an issue if you find an empty bottle of liquor on the streets of inhabited islands,” he said, suggesting that with the new licenses establishments must dispose of bottles properly.
Sim Mohamed from the Maldives Association of Tourism Industry (MATI) said the changes in alcohol licensing would have little effect on the tourism industry, “as most people travelling to Malé do so for business, or stay only for the day.”
Mauroof Zakir, spokesperson for a coalition of NGOs against the sale of alcohol on inhabited islands said the issue is intrinsically a serious one.
“Maybe the government thinks it’s only a few people with beards who want to stop this,” he said. “The government is doing what it likes without considering what the people might want.”
He said the Islamic Foundation and the coalition of NGOs “will not support this and will take action against it, within the law.”
Regulations at a glance:
a) alcohol and pork cannot be served outside the bar area, for instance from mini-bars in hotel rooms
b) Maldivians cannot be employed at the bar, while all employees must be registered at the ministry after a police clearance
c) the bar should not be visible from outside and should be located at a place that is not easily visible to those who visit the hotel
d) the hotel should have a separate warehouse to store pork and liquor items and it should have proper security
e) a daily inventory must be kept, including the amount in storage and the amount served
f) the inventory should be made available to police upon request
g) only expatriates registered at the ministry after a police clearance should be allowed to store and remove items from the warehouse
h) there must be a CCTV at the warehouse
i) only those with foreign passports can be served at the bar and Maldivians with foreign passports cannot be served
j) the security guard at the bar must check passports before entry
k) the hotel must establish a private security system approved by police
l) it will be illegal to remove pork and liquor items from the bar or selling it outside the hotel
m) inebriated customers should not be served before they regain sobriety nor should they be allowed to leave the hotel
n) the hotel must establish a breath-testing mechanism approved by police for patrons before they leave the bar
o) cameras must be installed if police request it and CCTV camera footage must be kept for a month