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Govt moves to ban alcohol in restaurants, bars

2020-03-23 HKT 17:39
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  • Govt moves to ban alcohol in restaurants, bars
Carrie Lam on Monday announced that the government is considering a temporary ban on alcohol sales in restaurants and bars after a series of confirmed Covid-19 cases involved people who had been to entertainment areas such as Lan Kwai Fong.

But it was not clear when any ban would come into effect.

The Chief Executive said that there are around 8,600 eateries and pubs in Hong Kong with a liquor licence, and the risk for virus transmission increases when people get a bit too close to each other after a few drinks.

"Sometimes when you go out to eat at a restaurant or a banquet hall you sit further away and can split dishes to eat," she said.

"But often when you go to a bar, you take off your face masks, have a drink, chat, sometimes people get a bit intimate when they’re drunk, and this will raise the risk of cross infection,” the top official said.

The CE said the government will look at ways to amend current rules to impose a temporary ban.

Lam also said her administration will consider what measures could be put in place to support businesses and those working in the hospitality sector.

Lam said: “Despite the fact that the government has rolled out a HK$30 billion package under the anti-epidemic fund, and another HK$120 billion under the recent budget initiatives, I understand that there is this demand or aspiration for more support from the government.”

But the Bar and Club Association, which has some 300 members, accused the government of unfairly targeting the industry while failing to enforce more stringent quarantine measures.

It said instead of a ban on alcohol, the government should instead send all people arriving from overseas to quarantine centres, and not just allowing self-isolation.

The association's vice chairman, Wing Chin, described Lam’s explanation that drinking in bars can lead to intimate contact as a joke.

He said bars get around 80 percent of their income from selling alcohol and a ban would effectively force them to close.

The chairman of the Lan Kwai Fong Group, Allan Zeman, also warned that going ahead with an alcohol ban would be the “nail in the coffin” for many businesses already struggling to stay afloat amid a huge decline in customers.

“There’re operators that are just running clubs at nighttime, all they sell is alcohol – no food”, he said. “So they’re totally out of business.”

Zeman added that most establishments make the most profit from alcohol sales, “so you’re taking away the butter on the bread”, he said.

He said if the government goes ahead with the ban, it would need to take concrete steps to help the industry, “otherwise you’re going to have a lot of lay-offs and a lot of companies closing.”

Earlier on Monday, the president of the Federation of Restaurants, Simon Wong, said the government should be prepared to offer compensation if steps are taken to curtail the sector.