Sobering time as bars ask for booze ban time frame

Top News | Sophie Hui 25 Mar 2020

Bar and catering associations have urged the government to give a time frame for the alcohol ban, claiming half of bars could close without government subsidies.

This came after Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said on Monday that the government will make an amendment to the current Prevention and Control of Disease Ordinance to ban some 8,600 bars and restaurants from selling alcoholic drinks due to the recent surge in Covid-19 cases.

Speaking before the Executive Council meeting yesterday, Lam said bars can do something else after the ban takes effect.

She said the government will ban alcohol sales in bars and restaurants because around 10 confirmed cases were connected to gatherings in bars.

"Of course one of the solutions is to close everything. The other is when bars can no longer sell alcohol, they can do something else, because we know a lot of bars have a restaurant license," she said.

The government will continue to listen to public views as it will take several days to finish drafting the bill, she added.

Speaking on a radio program, Hong Kong Bar and Pub Association vice chairman Chin Chun-wing said the government has no consideration for the industry as it did not consult them before making the decision.

He questioned why the government singled out establishments with liquor licenses, saying ordinary restaurants also allow gatherings of lots of diners.

"Hongkongers are unlike the French. Hongkongers will not hug and kiss others casually," he said.

Gordon Lam Sui-wa, convener of the Hong Kong Small and Middle Restaurant Federation, said many restaurants were furious about the measures and said the government had passed the buck to the industry.

He added that it is difficult for bars to reposition in a short time.

Lam suggested that the government request all restaurants to close for two weeks instead and, like the British government, cover rent and 80 percent of wages.

Speaking on another radio program, Institution of Dining president Art Simon Wong Kit-Lung said the alcohol ban does not "hit the spot," as there is no direct relationship between the pandemic and drinking.

He said people can still buy alcohol in supermarkets and convenience stores.

Wong accused the government of a lack of a comprehensive plan and not setting a time frame for the alcohol ban.

Separately, Uber announced supportive measures to its partners in Hong Kong, including cutting service fees for independent restaurants for three months.

"We know each delivery order counts right now, and this ensures small and independent restaurants make more from every order," it said.

The company will provide financial assistance to drivers and delivery partners who are diagnosed with the coronavirus or have to self-isolate as requested by authorities.

It will waive activation fees for new restaurants joining the platform and allow restaurants to receive daily rather than weekly payments.

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