Clampdown in the works for upstairs bars
The government wants to clamp down on the proliferation of upstairs bars.
It launched a two-month consultation yesterday on proposals that would ban them from semi-residential apartment blocks and buildings where regulations are persistently broken, and reduce their capacity on safety grounds.
Upstairs bars have become popular in recent years as rents for street-level premises have soared. Last year 433 licences were issued, a drop from 472 in 2009 but still a 30 per cent increase on the 335 in 2008. About half are located in Yau Tsim Mong.
Although upstairs bars make up just 6 per cent of all premises with liquor licences, they were responsible for 11 per cent of legal infringements - 277 breaches of licensing conditions and 65 other offences involving noise, smoking and obstruction.
The government said upstairs bars were unique to Hong Kong and posed an 'additional challenge in law enforcement'.
To restrict them, the government is proposing that a building cannot have more than half of its gross floor area taken up by upstairs bars.
Bars may also be banned from semi-residential buildings, apart from on the lowest three floors with separate access.
New licences may not be issued for bars in higher-risk buildings, such as those in heavily built up residential neighbourhoods or with poor records on following regulations.
Lillian Chan Yun-lin, convenor of the Entertainment Business Rights Concern Group, said it would be unfair to cut the capacity of upstairs bars. 'The Buildings Department has already set a quota on the number of customers for upstairs bars. It is unfair if they want to cut it now.'
She said there should not be a limit on the maximum number of upstairs bars in commercial buildings.
Chan said the government had not informed the industry before launching the public consultation.
Among other questions put forward in the public consultation is whether the licensing period should be extended to two years from one year, and whether companies - not individuals - should be allowed to become licensees.