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LCQ15: Liquor-licensed premises

     Following is a question by the Hon Kam Nai-wai and a written reply by the Secretary for Food and Health, Dr York Chow, in the Legislative Council today (November 30):


     In recent years, quite a number of members of the public have complained that they were disturbed by the noises and hygiene problems generated by bars and restaurants near their residences which have seriously affected their daily lives as well as work and rest.  Some members of the community have requested the Government to review its policies on the issue of liquor licences and the enforcement of regulation of liquor-licensed premises.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council of:

(a) the respective numbers of complaints received by the authorities about the noises and hygiene problems caused by bars and restaurants in Central and Western, Wan Chai and Yau Tsim Mong Districts in each of the past three years, together with a breakdown by the government department receiving such complaints (i.e. the Hong Kong Police Force, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and the Environmental Protection Department);

(b) the respective numbers of enforcement actions taken by the Hong Kong Police Force in each of the past three years against bars and restaurants in Central and Western, Wan Chai and Yau Tsim Mong Districts for violating the licensing conditions of liquor licences, and the numbers of cases in which prosecutions were instituted; and

(c) the respective numbers of liquor licences issued by the Liquor Licensing Board in respect of the premises in Central and Western, Wan Chai and Yau Tsim Mong Districts in each of the past three years; among them, the number of licences permitting the sale of liquors beyond midnight; and the number of cases in which the Liquor Licensing Board had, targeting at the liquor-licensed premises under complaint, penalised the licensees or revoked their licences?



     Hong Kong is a cosmopolitan city.  Catering, tourism, leisure and entertainment industries play an important role in Hong Kong's economic development, and liquor business is a key component of these industries.  However, Hong Kong is densely populated and some licensed premises selling liquor for consumption (liquor-licensed premises) are located in districts or property developments with mixed uses including residential use, affecting residents living nearby to different degrees.  This situation is more commonly found in Central and Western, Wan Chai and Yau Tsim Mong Districts.  The Government has to strike a balance among various needs.  On one hand, it would like to nurture a business friendly environment for the industry to grow, but on the other it needs to minimise the impact of liquor-licensed premises on the surrounding environment.

     At present, the Liquor Licensing Board (LLB), an independent statutory body to consider liquor licence applications, adopts an open, transparent and fair approach in considering applications and aims to balance the interests of legitimate commercial activities and those of the locality.  Pursuant to the Dutiable Commodities (Liquor) Regulations (Cap. 109B), LLB has to consider three factors when deciding on each application, namely (i) whether the applicant is a fit and proper person to hold the licence; (ii) whether the premises are suitable for selling and supplying intoxicating liquor, having regard to the location and structure of the premises and the fire safety and hygienic conditions in the premises; and (iii) whether in all the circumstances the grant of the licence is not contrary to public interest.  LLB will impose conditions in liquor licences as it thinks fit, which may include additional licensing conditions for the purpose of minimising the nuisance caused to nearby residents by certain liquor-licensed premises, such as restricting the liquor-selling hours, requiring all doors and windows of the premises to be closed after specific hours and prohibiting the playing of music or the use of amplifiers.

     The Police are the main enforcement department for the liquor licensing regime.  Other relevant government departments also enforce the laws and regulations under their respective purview with regard to these premises.  The enforcement agencies conduct regular and surprise checks on liquor-licensed premises so as to ensure continued compliance with the respective statutory or administrative requirements.  In areas where liquor-licensed premises have a greater impact on nearby residents, the departments concerned will step up inspection and enforcement actions, including conducting late night inter-departmental joint operations and giving advices, warnings or instituting prosecutions against those premises which caused nuisance to the public, according to the nature and seriousness of each case.  Besides, government departments organise publicity and education activities from time to time to remind liquor-licensed premises to comply with license requirements, maintain environmental hygiene and avoid making excessive noise.

     My reply to the various parts of the question is as follows:

(a) Most liquor-licensed premises concurrently hold Restaurant Licences or Certificates of Compliance for clubs.  There is no standardised method of further categorising the nature of business of individual liquor-licensed premises (e.g. as bar or restaurant) among LLB and the enforcement departments.  Hence we can only provide information according to the statistics kept by the departments.  Annex 1 lists out the number of complaints received by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD) and the Environmental Protection Department (EPD) about noise and environmental hygiene problems caused by liquor-licensed premises in Central and Western, Wan Chai and Yau Tsim Mong Districts from 2009 to October this year, as well as the number of complaints received by the Police about noise and obstruction in relation to upstairs bars during the same period in the said three districts.

(b) The detailed statistics on enforcement and prosecution actions of the Police in relation to liquor-licensed premises in the said districts during the same period are at Annex 2.  

(c) The number of liquor licences and information on restricted hours of selling liquor in the said three districts are at Annex 3.

     Pursuant to the Dutiable Commodities (Liquor) Regulations (Cap. 109B), in considering whether an application by liquor-licensed premises for licence renewal should be approved (including whether to issue the licence for a period of less than one year, impose additional licensing conditions or refuse the renewal application), or whether the liquor licence of a liquor-licensed premises should be revoked, matters relating to the three factors mentioned in the second paragraph above, including the views of the government departments concerned and local residents, the number and substance of complaints received against the premises, etc., should be taken into account comprehensively before coming to a decision.  LLB does not compile statistics on the cases in which penalties were imposed or liquor licences were revoked solely as a result of complaints against liquor-licensed premises.  The number of licence revocation cases due to breaches of licensing conditions in 2009, 2010 and this year (up to October) were five, seven and six respectively.  All of the premises involved were located in Yau Tsim Mong District, except for one case this year in which the premises concerned was located in Central and Western District.

Ends/Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Issued at HKT 14:29


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