THE sudden announcement by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) imposing a ban on the sale of hard liquor in convenience stores, sundry shops and Chinese medicine halls from Oct 1 next year has caught many stakeholders by suprise.
Predictably, there has been an outcry with most questioning the rationale behind implementing the new guidelines in a multiracial country, especially the capital city.
Affected businesses said the decision would adversely affect their bottom line.
Others supported the move, saying reducing the easy availability of cheap liquor at neighbourhood shops was a good move as it had contributed to social problems.
Simon Teh, a resident from Taman United in Jalan Kelang Lama, was not happy with DBKL’s decision.
“I enjoy wine and it is convenient to buy it from my local store.
“If this new rule is implemented next year, I have to go to the supermarket, ’’ Teh said, adding that meant he would have to drive further away instead of walking to a shop in his neighbourhood.
Dismayed by decision
A Chinese medicine hall proprietor, who only wanted to be identified as Yean, described the decision to ban the sale of hard liquor as a knee-jerk decision made without getting stakeholders’ feedback.
“We are always at the mercy of the authorities.
“I have been in this business for 27 years and pay my taxes and all the required fees to DBKL, including the liquor licence, premises licence, signboard fee and assessment taxes.
“I pay thousands of ringgit every year and it is not fair that we don’t get to have a say in this important matter, ’’ Yean said.
Another Chinese medicine hall owner, CY Yap, who operates in Jalan Kuchai Lama, said his shop was not in close proximity to schools or temples.
“So why ban me from selling hard liquor, especially premium brands?’’ he asked.
Cheras MP Tan Kok Wai also criticised DBKL’s move.
He also expressed his unhappiness with the local authority for not engaging with the businesses involved in the matter.
One of Klang Valley’s largest alcohol distributors, HRZ Beverages Sdn Bhd general manager Chang Sze Hou said DBKL should have conducted a study before implementing the new ruling.
“This is going to affect local manufacturers who produce local compounded liquor for Chinese medicine halls.
“If they stop selling it in the premises stated, this will mean the end of the road for them, ’’ he said.
“Customers who buy alcohol at convenience stores usually consume the drinks at home.
“What is the difference whether they buy at supermarkets or convenience stores?” he questioned.
Chang added that the authorities should go after the illegal manufacturers of cheap liquor who were the real culprits and the cause of social problems.
KK Super Mart founder Datuk Seri Dr KK Chai questioned the timing of the decision, when businesses were badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The timing is inappropriate.
“People are losing their jobs, businesses are closing, and this also means reduced tax for the government.
“This decision has far-reaching consequences.
“Staff will have to be let go, deliverymen will lose their jobs, the distributors will also be affected.
“It is a chain reaction that will hurt a lot of industries, ’’ he said.
Selangor and Kuala Lumpur Wine and Spirit Chinese Dealers Association secretary Chooi Leong Peow said it was unfair to implement a blanket ban.
He thinks that the decision may be linked to several drink-driving incidents.
“For the Chinese, liquor is served during celebrations, such as Chinese New Year, weddings and other auspicious events.
“If someone drives when they are drunk, then it is a police matter.”
“This ban is going to affect a lot of people’s livelihood, many businesses will not survive if DBKL decides to go ahead with it, ’’ said Chooi.
The Federal Territory and Selangor Chinese Medicine Dealers Association president Loh Kim Fong agreed with Chai and Chooi, adding that the ban was going to put a lot of people out of business, especially small businesses.
“Our members are demotivated and we feel helpless, ’’ Loh said.
Elated over news
Dr Christopher Nicholas, a long-time resident of Brickfields, is overjoyed about the decision.
Having lived in the township since birth, the 60-year-old has witnessed people of all ages, including teenagers, thronging neighbourhood sundry shops to buy cheap liquor, especially at night.
“The next morning, I will see these people sleeping on the pavement, at bus stops and park benches, with empty liquor bottles and cans scattered everywhere. This has been going on for years, ’’ he said.
Another reason for Dr Nicholas’ concern is the fact that Brickfields is home to several schools and places of worship. Despite that, the township had seen an increase in stores selling all types of liquor.
Resident G. Selvi also supports the move, saying there has to be some control over the sale of hard liquor, especially for a township like Brickfields where there are thousands of families with young children.
“I walk with my child every day to a school nearby from my apartment in Brickfields.
“Along the way, there will be at least two or three people intoxicated with cheap liquor bottles lying nearby, ” she said.
Taman Seputeh resident Cynthia Hor noted that sundry shops were popping up everywhere.
“Some streets have six sundry shops that stock hard liquor.
“I always wonder how they manage to open a half shop and sell booze so easily, ” she said.
In Sentul, Rev Justin Clarance, a pastor with the Sentul Tamil Methodist Church, uttered a silent prayer of thanks when he heard the news.
“I have seen families ravaged by alcohol abuse, particularly cheap liquor, and many families have lost their loved ones due to alcohol-related diseases.
“Our church has been helping these families cope with domestic violence and social problems caused by the consumption of cheap liquor, ’’ he said.
He added that convenience stores and sundry shops in the neighbourhood were selling liquor for as cheap as RM10 each.
Excise Licensing Board of the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur (ELBKL) chairman Datuk Lau Beng Wei clarified that the guidelines were not meant to restrict the sale of liquor in the city but to regulate the availability of hard liquor in certain premises.
He said it would help control the sale and purchase of such liquor in terms of its location, type of premises and the time of sale.
He explained that Chinese medicine shops that intended to sell other types of liquor could still apply for permission from the Health Ministry, with justification for their sale, and DBKL would have no objections if the ministry confirmed the type of liquor.
“Temporary liquor licences can also be issued for promotional activities, events that serve beer and liquor as well as during festive seasons, ” he said.
He also said that the sale of beer would still be allowed at sundry shops, convenience stores and medicine halls, subject to certain conditions.
Lau said several workshops and meetings had been held with relevant agencies, including the Health Ministry, Federal Territories Ministry, Customs Department, police, Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research Federal Territory Islamic Religious Department as well as non-governmental organisations, in preparing the guidelines.
The guidelines stipulate that businesses selling hard liquor also cannot be situated in front of places of worship, schools and hospitals among the list of places.
However the ban will not affect pure or mixed liquor products which are sold as traditional medicine.
The restriction does not apply to beer, which can still be sold from 7am to 9pm daily, although it must be placed separately from other beverages.
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