Lai See

Is the Liquor Licensing Board out of control?

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 December, 2013, 12:15am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 December, 2013, 12:15am

In recent months, a number of bars have fallen foul of the Liquor Licensing Board (LLB) and had their licences revoked, resulting in considerable loss of revenue.

Although in some cases licences have been restored by the Municipal Services Appeal Board (MSAB), bar owners have long complained about their vulnerability to ill-intentioned complaints and hearsay at LLB hearings and MSAB appeals. This can lead to the loss of licences, the closure of businesses and the loss of investments, even when neither the police nor the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department object.

These matters were touched on in a recent High Court decision handed down by the newly appointed Mr Justice Kevin Zervos. The decision relates to an application by the owners of the Coast bar in SoHo for judicial review of a decision by the MSAB to refuse to renew their liquor licence.

The MSAB's refusal followed the revocation of the licence by the LLB. The Coast was given leave to appeal by Zervos, who accepted its argument that the MSAB "took into account irrelevant considerations by placing emphasis on unsubstantiated complaints", and that "the way the LLB considered and viewed the complaints in relation to the premises was inconsistent and unfair".

Zervos also drew attention to the curious procedure whereby a bar would successfully appeal to the MSAB against conditions of the licence imposed by the LLB, only for the conditions to be reimposed by the LLB when the licence came up for renewal again.

The MSAB had argued that the Coast licensee "was not a fit and proper person to hold a liquor licence" and that it was therefore not in the public interest to grant one. Zervos accepted the Coast's argument that "the nature and degree of the reasoning and analysis was inadequate with respect to the MSAB's key conclusion".

Also of interest was the judge's rebuttal of an attempt by government counsel Lewis Law, representing the LLB, to argue that the Court of First Instance has no jurisdiction to rule on licensing matters.

"The courts are to ensure that appropriate measures are taken only to protect the position of an applicant who has or may have been unfairly treated by the decision, the decision-maker or the decision-making process," the judge wrote.

This decision, which is something of a slap in the face for the LBB and MSAB, will come as some relief to bar and restaurant owners who feel the LLB is getting out of control.

It is clearly not right that people who have made significant investments should have these put at risk by the LLB, which appears increasingly happy to base its decisions on unsubstantiated complaints.


The rich get a little richer

Hewlett-Packard is giving CEO Meg Whitman a whopping pay raise as she enters the third year of her attempt to revive the fortunes of the personal-computer and printer maker. Her annual salary is soaring to US$1.5 million.

Whitman is already a billionaire, having joined eBay as CEO in 1997 when it had 30 employees and revenue of US$4 million. By the end of 2007 when she left, it had 15,000 employees and revenues of US$8 billion.

So it was no great hardship when she agreed to work for HP as CEO in 2011 for US$1. HP was eliminating nearly 30,000 jobs at the time in an effort to offset declining revenues.

They are still declining, but the company's share price has gone up 20 per cent since Whitman took over.


Watch your language

Are you are a driven, analytical, innovative strategic expert? If so, don't get carried away, because so apparently is everyone else. These buzzwords are among the ten most overused this year, according LinkedIn and its 259 million users.

Just so that you know what not to say in your resume or web blurb, the others are "responsible", "creative", "effective", "patient" and "organisational". This is the fourth consecutive year LinkedIn has conducted this study and "innovative" has featured in all of them, making it the most overused term, followed by "organisational", "analytical" and "effective".

Rather than using these words, LinkedIn advises giving detailed accounts of your accomplishments that imply these attributes. Whatever.


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