John from Old Harbour in the parish of St. Catherine said he is planning to open a bar in the Old Harbour area and he wishes to find how to go about securing proper permission to sell alcoholic liquor at his business place as he does not want to do anything to contravene the law.
John is correct in seeking guidance in that the Spirit Licence Act (hereinafter called the act) provides that spirits must not be sold without a licence.
“Spirits” is defined by the act as any liquid containing alcohol and to include the spirits sold as rum, whisky, brandy, gin among other liquors. In fact, Section 3 of the act provides, among other things, that “No spirits shall be sold either by wholesale or by retail except by persons duly licensed under this act.

However, this does not apply to persons in charge of estate where sprits are manufactured, persons who sell his private stock not exceeding 225 litres, a licensed retailer who bona fide transfers his stock, an officer who sells under law or a personal representative selling liquor which shall come to him pursuant to his role as personal representative.
Section 5 of the act provides description of licences that may be granted. John may wish to apply for a town retail licence or a tavern licence.
The next step for John is to make an application to the Licensing Authority (the justices at the Resident Magistrate’s Court in the parish) not less than 21 days before a date fixed for the session of the Licensing Authority to sit to hear the applications. John is required, in his written application, to state the nature of the licence applied for, give a full description of the premises, say whether he has ever held a licence, say whether the premises has been licensed for the 12 months preceding the application, say whether he is able to read and write English and keep account books in English and reveal whether he has in the last five years been convicted of any offence against the act. John will also be required to pay the amount of the licence duty and stamp duty on the licence.
It is important that John bears in mind the requirements for the premises to be used. The act requires that the building must be solidly and substantially built with weather-tight roof, floor with timber concrete, motor or pavement of brick, stone, tiles or asphalt, be in good repair and must have no internal communication with premises otherwise licensed under this act. The Licensing Authority may refuse the license under any of the following grounds. These are: that the premises are unfit, the applicant is of bad character, the applicant has allowed his licensed premise to become a nuisance, the premises is so situated that it cannot be kept under police control among other grounds.
John must note that the superintendent of police or any householder in the parish may oppose his application provided such notice is given in writing setting out the grounds on which the opposition is based. If the John is successful with his application, the Clerk shall within 14 days or such further time as the Chairman of the Licensing Authority may indicate, from the date of the granting of the licence and on presentation of the receipt from the Collector of Taxes issue to John a licence as outlined in the Second Schedule of the Act.
If the application by John is rejected, the Clerk shall on demand in writing furnish to John a certificate of such rejection and the reason for the rejection.


Keith N. Bishop is an Attorney-at-Law and partner in the firm of Bishop & Fullerton, Attorneys-at-Law. He may be contacted by email at
From the pages of the Jamaica Star, August 31, 2006.