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How to get a bar license in Jamaica

Rates and Fees

Rates and Fees

How to get a bar license in Jamaica? || By Aneisha Dobson, Associate Writer

Throughout the world, bars have long been a gathering place for individuals to unwind under the exudence of music, the clattering of beer bottles and the chatter of patrons, and may I dear say that Jamaica is no exception.

Since bars are such a popular hangout spot, it is known to be a lucrative business. Consequently, many individuals have begun setting up bars and selling spirits.

In an effort to regulate the industry, individuals are required to attain a valid Spirit Licence under the Spirit Licence Act.

For those who are unaware, the Spirit Licence Act defines “spirits” as any liquid containing alcohol the product of distillation; including the spirits known or sold as rum, brandy, whisky, gin, hollands, and arrack, and all other distilled spirit.

Before you begin to apply, you’ll need to identify what type of licence you will need for your business. You should know that the various types of spirit licence:

  • Wholesale licence
  • Town retail licence
  • Town-off licence
  • Village retail licence
  • Tavern licence
  • Hotel licence
  • Occasional special licence
  • Club licence

The type of licence will also determine the quantity you’ll be able to sell. For instance, Wholesale licences entitles the holder to sell more than 225 litres of rum, while a village retail licence requires holders to not exceeding 225 litres of rum in sale.

You can take a look through the Spirit Licence Act to garner some more information about each type to assist you in make your decision. Here’s the link.

Once you have identified which licence you will need, it’s now time to make your application.

Application Process

The application process for your spirit licence will require to visit various organizations to make the necessary applications and payments.

These organizations are: the Resident Magistrate’s Court, Inland Revenue Department, Public Health Department and nearest Police Station.

Another important thing that you as an applicant should note, is the quarterly sessions held by the Licensing Authority.

The holding of any such session shall be notified by the Court Clerk in the Gazette and in a newspaper printed and circulating in the Island at least one month before the day of the session.

It is required that applicants submit all applications 21 days before the hearing of the session and they must attend the court session to be granted the licence.

  1. You need a clear sign on the premises stating your intentions of applying for a Spirit Licence.

    For instance, the sign could read: “It is my intention to apply for a spirit licence to sell rum, gin, brandy and other distilled spirit at the next court session”.

    This sign does not permit you to sell alcohol, instead it states your intentions to open a bar. This allows persons who wish to oppose it the opportunity to visit in court or go to the police and give reasons for their disapproval.

  2. Obtain and fill out an application form from the Court Clerk at the Resident Magistrate’s Court in your parish.

    In addition, you should submit a copy to your local Superintendent of Police.

    The application should include the following:

    • The nature of the licence applied for
    • A full description of the premises for which the same is desired and as nearly as may be the situation of the same
    • A clear statement indicating whether you have ever before held a licence under this Act or Law 31 of 1905 which is now repealed and if so when and where and whether your licence was at any time forfeited
    • A clear statement indicating whether the premises for which the licence is desired have, within the twelve months immediately preceding the application, been licensed under this Act
    • Establish that you are able to read and write the English language and to keep account books in English
    • A clear statement indicating whether you have at any time within five years before your application been convicted of any offence against this Act.

  3. Pay the licence duty and stamp duty for the licence at the Inland Revenue Department. You will receive a receipt showing proof of your payment and this receipt will be presented along with the application mention in #2 to the Resident Magistrate’s Court.

    A browse through the Tax Administration Jamaica website, you will see that each type of licence carries a different fee.

  4. Visit the Public Health department in order to make an application.

    Once you have submitted all the requisite applications you will have to wait for the hearing date of the session.
    After you have attended the hearing session you will be contacted by the Clerk of Court confirming whether or not you application has been approved.

    If you are successful in your application, you'll be contacted by the clerk within approximately 14 days from the date of the granting of the licence.

    However, the Licence Authority may refuse your application for one or more of the following reasons:

    • the premise was deemed unfit for the purpose of the licence applied for or are in the opinion of the Licensing Authority undesirable to be licensed;
    • the applicant is a person of bad character;
    • that the applicant having within the preceding five years been a holder of a licence in any part of the Island has allowed his licensed premises to become a nuisance to his neighbourhood;
    • that the premises for which the application is made are so situated that they cannot be kept under effective police control;
    • that the premises are likely to be a nuisance to the neighbourhood;
    • that there is a sufficient number of premises already licensed to meet the needs of the neighbourhood;
    • the applicant has not attained the age of twenty- one years;
    • that the licence cannot be legally granted.

    Remember it is illegal to operate a bar without having a Spirit Licence and persons found operating without a licence will be charged, so if you intend to operate, make your application today.

    As usual, I appreciate your feedback, remember to drop a comment below.


    P.S. We answered hundreds of other questions about Jamaica, see them here


    • Jamaica Information Service . (2013, August 14). Spirit License. Retrieved from Jamaica Information Service :

    • Jamaica Star. (n.d.). How to Get a spirit licence. Retrieved from Jamaica Star:

    • Jones, R. (2015, April 19). Cops crack down on bars - Central Kingston police to go after rum shops operating without licences. Retrieved from The Gleaner:

    • Ministry of Justice. (2012, January 1). Spirit Licence Act. Retrieved from Ministry of Justice:

    • Tax Administartion Jamaica. (n.d.). Rates and Fees. Retrieved from Tax Administartion Jamaica:

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