In a widely-welcomed move by the post-war rebounding tourism sector, the Government has lifted the ban on the issuance of new liquor licences, in addition to easing a host of previous restrictions ensuring spirits will be overflowing provided certain conditions are adhered to.
Hitherto new hotels built in close proximity to schools, religious and cultural places weren’t given liquor licences. Hotels also faced limitations with times fixed for serving liquor as well as having to obtain multiple licenses depending on the number of locations within the hotel where liquor is sold.
However from now onwards except Poya Days glasses are unlikely to be empty for guests in all qualifying hotels.
The tourism industry is replete with cases of some hotels being able to serve liquor despite being close to religious and educational institutions whilst some of the newer properties nearby or across the road deprived of same. Among famous boutique hotels which were victims included Tintangel, CASA Colombo as well as slew of relatively new and brand new hotels in tourist hubs across the country.
Given the multi religious status of the country, the leisure sector has been consistently maintaining that the liquor licensing regime must be reformed with a clear and equitable law if the tourism industry is to be further developed.
In a recently Gazetted move, hotels approved and graded by Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority (SLTDA) built with a minimum investment of US$ 4 million within Colombo Municipal limits and US$ 2 million outside can qualify for new liquor licences.
Hotels built previously but didn’t have a licence also qualify. Boutique hotels, Villas or Heritage hotels in order to qualify should have a minimum of 15 hotels if located within Colombo Municipal limits and 7 if located outside.
Fresh licence issued (for all hotels) is valid for 3 calendar years and SLTDA has to issue a certificate of compliance of new conditions by the hotel for renewal.
The three-year licence fee for five stars above 250 rooms is Rs. 5 million whilst for three and four stars it is Rs. 3 million. For hotels with 200 rooms with five star status and above it is Rs. 4 million and for 3 and 4 star category it is Rs. 2.25 million. In the case of hotels under 100 rooms it is Rs. 3 million if five star and Rs. 1.75 million if three and four star category. The fee reduces if the room strength if 50 and below.
During the first nine months of 2010 there had been 445,228 tourist arrivals up by 44% in the corresponding period of last year. Sri Lanka is cruising for its highest ever arrivals figure of 600,000 this year.