The Legislative Comission for Children, Youth and Adolescents (Comisión de Niñez, Juventud y Adolescencia) is evaluating a bill to prohibit the sale of liquor in mini-supermarkets located in residential areas or near schools, day care centers, churches, hospitals, clinics and senior centers.
According to legislator Javier Cambronero, the proponent of the bill, the goal is to discourage the consumption of alcohol by the young.
The proposal, as expected, generates concern among retailers who warn of the possibility of closures or increased illegal sales.
“We have seen a proliferation of mini-supermarkets near schools that makes it more accessible for young people the possibility of drinking liquor,” said Cambronero.
In Costa Rica, in addition to the ‘licoreras’ (liquor stores), beer, wine and liquor can be purchased in supermarkets and corner stores or mini-super chains such as Am Pm, Fresh Market, Proximart, and many others.
According to the legislator for the Partido Accion Cuidadana (PAC), the bill also attempts to reduce the consumption of alcohol on public roads, sidewalks, and other public places, as it is very common to see people who buy liquor in this type of business.
“We believe in a stricter regulation. In terms of the mini-supers located in 100 meters near educational centers that type of patent (license) not be granted,” he said.
The other amendment proposed by the reform is to increase regulation in the advertising of alcoholic beverages.
The text establishes that the Instituto sobre Alcoholismo y Farmacodependencia (IAFA) – Institute on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence – be responsible for the regulation and control of all types of commercial advertising related to the sale of liquor. In the current law, this function falls on the Ministry of Health.
Ana Teresa Vásquez, director of the National Chamber of Retailers and Allied Merchants, considers that the project “limits the activity of small businesses”.
“It takes away the competitiveness of the retail business … merchants are going to lose a lot of customers and many will have to close, which, in a country where we need employment, it seems surprising that we are seeing a project of this nature,” said Vásquez.
According to Vásquez, in the country, there are more than 14,000 mini-supermarkets, of which more than 70% have a license to sell liquor.
For her, if the project is approved, it would also encourage illegality.
“Part of the argument is that liquor is consumed on the sidewalks, but with this bill, we will not eliminate that because in the large supermarkets, the same liquor is sold. The law already has the tools to avoid the problems this bill intends to combat. We can not prevent someone on the street from consuming (alcohol), for that we have the police, in addition, the retailer does not allow that kind of thing because it affects the image of their business,” Vásquez added.
Cambronero said they are willing to listen to the sector, although the proposal already has good support.