*Creative Commons photo
*Creative Commons photo

“Bermuda has not ‘arrested’ our alcohol addiction levels well enough to consider making liquor sales more accessible.” 

That’s the view of Martha Dismont, executive director of the Family Centre, who urges Government to provide more public consultation before moving ahead with plans to allow retailers to sell liquor on Sundays.

Government announced the plan in the Throne Speech. The OBA announced “… times have changed. Locals and tourists alike wish to be able to purchase beer, wines and spirits on a Sunday”.

But is the glass half full or half empty for islanders over the issue?

The Bermuda Sun received a mixed reaction from restaurateurs, grocery store owners, family and women’s charities to proposed amendments to the Liquor Licence Act 1974.

Martha Dismont said: “When a country is challenged with the many social challenges that we have, it is contraindicated to increase accessibility to something that can easily turn into an addiction for those individuals who see it as a panacea to their pain. 

“In recessionary times, families are more concerned about their ability to manage, and often resort to alcohol and other drugs to help them to feel better…I believe that there are many in our community who are quite passionate about this issue and who would prefer to see us being less dependent upon alcohol and alcohol sales to strengthen our economy.” 

Dawn Douglas, a sales assistant at Court Street Liquors, said: “I don’t really agree with opening on a Sunday as I think one day should be free. You just need a day away from it, and a time with family.

“Maybe Government could make licensing hours in the stores until 10 o’clock on the other days of the week instead.”

Terry Lister, Independent MP for Sandys South, called on Government to show some evidence of demand from visitors.

He said: “The Government says there was some sort of demand (for this) and I’d like to see what the evidence is of this. We are unaware of this demand so it comes as a surprise. Some tourists won’t even know where the grocery stores are so I don’t think they are doing it for the tourists. Is it a quid pro quo for the 10 per cent shopping discounts at the grocery stores? The Government has got to tell us why they think this is a necessary move, as there has been no one in the papers screaming and hollering for it. So who is asking for it?” 

In the Cayman Islands to our south, alcohol sales are restricted to bars and restaurants on Sundays.

In the US, more states are allowing Sunday liquor sales, with some even permitting start times as early as 6am. Up to 36 of the nation’s 50 states allow sales of distilled spirits on Sunday.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, Sunday sales of alcohol were introduced in 2003. Scotland allowed Sunday sales in 2005.

‘No impact’ 

Laurie Shiell, executive director of the Centre Against Abuse, said the extension of liquor sales to Sundays was unlikely to have an impact on domestic violence.

“We don’t believe it will increase the number of domestic incidents,” she said. “Someone who is abusive will target a specific person, so liquor doesn’t necessarily make a person abusive. People have always had access to alcohol on a Sunday in the bars and restaurants, so for us, we don’t see this will make a difference.”

Frank Arnold, owner and general manager of Arnolds Markets/Café Cairo Restaurant & Bar, said the change in licensing laws would offer customers more choice:  “It’s good for the customer. There is only so much alcohol a customer can purchase so this just makes it more convenient for them.”

Philip Barnett, president of the Island Restaurant Group, added: “Sunday is not our highest consumption day of the week so I don’t think it will have any impact. It’s probably a good thing for Bermuda to allow people to have the choice. And it is another opportunity for us to impress our tourists and visitors, particularly when we are trying to encourage people to come down by air (from North America) for the weekend.

“If they want to go to the grocery store to get a bottle of wine to watch the sunset and they can’t do that, then we are not really rolling out the red carpet for them to enjoy their vacation in Bermuda.” 

Roger Kendall, a former National Traffic Coordinator and senior traffic accident investigator for the Bermuda Police Service, said: “As a Christian I’m against it, but you can walk into any bar or restaurant to buy alcohol at any time of the day.

“So do you want someone to go into a bar or restaurant and then drink-drive, which is the current option? 

“Or do you want to make liquor available at extended hours in grocery stores, where someone can then take it home, and so they are not drink-driving?

“To me there are pros and cons on both sides.”

 

Carlton Crockwell Sr, chairman of the Road Safety Council, added: “It does not matter if someone purchases liquor on a Sunday or any other day of the week. 

“Our message is clear, ‘Don't drink and drive’. If you are buying liquor to consume on the spot make sure you have someone with you that can drive the vehicle.

“We will support the Minister’s position to have the Road Safety Council educate the public on how important it is to put safety first.” 

 

Anthony Santucci, chairman of CADA (Centre for Alcohol and Drug Abuse Prevention), said: “As the changes to the Liquor Licence Act 1974 relate to the extension of the sale of alcohol hours, we once again call for the establishment of an ABC - an ‘Alcohol Bureau of Control’. 

“If we are to change Bermuda’s relationship with alcohol, we encourage the Government to be bold and follow CADA’s 2008 legislative committee recommendations which can be viewed at our website cada.bm.”