Should retail outlets be required to get an off-licence to sell liquor? A year ago, we wrote about the thriving business done by 7-Elevens around the Lan Kwai Fong entertainment area. Since then, a few more have sprung up in the area. It is not hard to see why since people can buy liquor for a significantly lower price than in one of the surrounding bars. There is a reason for this. 7-Eleven does not have the overheads of a bar in terms of staff and fittings. Nor does it have to go through the regulatory hurdles the bars do. This is a sore point with bar owners, who make a considerable financial investment in their premises while having to deal with a Liquor Licensing Board, which, as some of the recent decisions by Mr Justice Kevin Zervos in the High Court indicate, can be somewhat capricious. In Hong Kong, the sale of liquor at licensed premises is regulated by the board while the sale of food is regulated by the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department. Hence the absurd situation that occurs here when restaurants open and have to wait for months to obtain a liquor licence. Other jurisdictions have abandoned this split and the sale of food and liquor is regulated by one body - something that could be applied in Hong Kong. As things stand, 7-Eleven has to obtain a licence from the food department to supply cooked food for consumption off the premises. To get this licence, it has to fulfil certain requirements. Unusually, Hong Kong has no such requirements for the sale of alcohol. Theoretically, it is legal for a 10-year-old to walk into a 7-Eleven or supermarket and buy alcohol. 7-Eleven says it is scrupulous in only serving alcohol to those over 18 years old. However, from a casual observation of its various outlets, it is clear that this is not always the case. So at the 7-Elevens in and around Lan Kwai Fong, you will find a somewhat larger display of liquor for sale than at 7-Elevens elsewhere. There is a bottle opener on the counter and invariably people are drinking inside and there is usually a crowd outside. Under these circumstances, it does not seem unreasonable that 7-Elevens should be required to get a licence to sell liquor off the premises. This way, they would be subject to the same sort of conditions that bars are. So they would be legally restricted to selling to those over 18 years old. The public would be able to object to the sale of liquor at these shops at the liquor board hearings in the same way that they do for bars. Bars are frequently barred from having people drinking outside their premises. The same could be applied to 7-Eleven. Undoubtedly, 7-Eleven, which is run by Dairy Farm and is part of the Jardine group of companies along with other retail outlets that sell liquor, would find it an enormous pain to have to apply for off-licences for its various premises. Such is life. A compliant HKEx Angelina Kwan has been appointed as head of regulatory compliance at Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing. Speaking to Lai See from the ski slopes of Colorado, she said her division would be the main interface with the Securities and Futures Commission whereas hitherto compliance had been handled by various divisions. Ironically, the position was the one she recommended HKEx set up about 10 years ago when she was the director of supervision of markets with the commission. Currently, the SFC only inspects the listings department of HKEx. In future, their inspections will be more extensive. The new division "basically ensures that the stock exchange complies with SFC rules, and it will centre everything they are doing into one department", said Kwan. In addition to working for the SFC, she has held compliance roles with a number of international financial services companies.