5-star hotels and booze: Lawmakers discuss license law

By Anh Minh   April 23, 2019 | 05:18 pm PT
5-star hotels and booze: Lawmakers discuss license law
All hotels, regardless of their star-rating, are required to apply for a license before selling alcohol. Photo by AFP
Government officials are divided over the need for a law requiring all accommodation providers to get a license to sell liquor.

The Vietnam Beer, Alcohol and Beverage Association (VBA) proposed the removal of this regulation at Monday meeting with the Government Working Group.

The meeting was held under the auspices of a conference aimed at resolving difficulties for businesses in the hospitality sector.

VBA representatives said that tourist accommodation providers (hotels, tourist villages etc.) that are ranked from one to five stars and above should not have to apply for an additional liquor trading license. They said that the regulation, which took effect in September 2017, has caused difficulties for businesses, increasing procedures and costs.

In response to a proposal that the regulation be changed from a mandatory application for a license to an "obligation to inform," Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Dang Hoang An said that star ratings only reflect a hotel’s quality of service. The control of goods sold at any establishment, is a separate issue.

"5-star hotels are still capable of selling illegal liquor. Selling alcohol is a very profitable line of business, there is always the possibility of cheating," he said.

So it is still necessary to ensure that establishments are selling alcohol of verified origin without endangering consumer health, An added.

However, Minister and Chairman of the Government Office Mai Tien Dung argued that government agencies should switch from pre-checks to post-checks, so that a license will not be required. This means allowing establishments to sell first, only requiring documents that prove their products’ origin, he said.

In agreement with Dung, Ngo Hai Phan, director of the Administrative Procedure Control Agency, said that he believed doing away with the rule would reduce the administrative burden on businesses.

Deputy Health Minister Truong Quoc Cuong said he wants to raise sanctions in the event a hotel is found to sell fake liquor.

"If this area is found to require more state control, the regulation will be maintained, but if it is found to create costs and barriers, we will reach a consensus and propose to the Prime Minister that it is removed," said Mai Tien Dung, Chairman of the Government Office.

Internet liquor sales

VBA also requested that the government abolish regulations prohibiting the online sales of alcohol and beer with an alcoholic content of over 15 percent.

This regulation has caused much controversy, with some calling it "obsolete in the Industry 4.0 era," and creating unfair obstacles for certain types of alcohol and not others.

However, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade An said that it was very difficult to control the sale of alcohol online, as it would be too easy for buyers to fraudulently declare their age/identity. Even if the ban were to be lifted, there still needs to be a mechanism to control online sale of alcohol, he said.

The Ministry of Health is currently working on a draft law on preventing adverse effects of alcohol consumption for submission to the National Assembly for approval. The law will impose greater restrictions on the sale and advertising of alcohol.

Vietnamese consumers spend an average of $3.4 billion each year on alcohol, or 3 percent of the government’s budget revenue, according to official data. This works out to per capita consumption of $300 per capita, while spending on health averages $113 per person, according to the health ministry.

As much as 40 percent of traffic accidents in Vietnam are linked to excessive drinking, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), an alarming rate for a country where road crashes kill an average one person every hour.

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