Business groups back alcoholic beverage takeout bill

Bars are now allowed to reopen at 50 percent capacity. (PNC file photo)

The business community was out in force today to support Bill 384, which would amend Guam law to allow restaurants to sell alcoholic beverages for takeout.

The Legislature held a virtual public hearing for the bill on Zoom this morning.

Supporters of the bill claim it’s necessary to help increase sales in the food and beverage industry, which has been hard-hit during the pandemic.

They say the bill also modernizes alcohol regulations to account for the food delivery industry, which was growing in popularity across the country, even before the pandemic.

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The Guam Chamber of Commerce, Guam Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and the Guam Hotel and Restaurant Association testified in support of the bill.

Individual members of the business community testified as well.

This included Marcos Fong, who is the managing director of the parent company of Subway and Chili’s; Brian Artero, head of the restaurant group that includes Lone Star Steakhouse and Crust; and Jennifer McFerranwith California Pizza Kitchen, Beachin’ Shrimp, and Eat Streat Grill.

However, not all business owners were on board.

Patrick Nelson, president of Clubs of Guam, which represents the island’s night clubs, said he doesn’t think allowing restaurants to sell alcohol as takeout will make enough of a difference to justify the time and effort spent on the bill.

He also said he has concerns about who will be held liable if someone breaks the law.

Nelson said he was drawing on his experience with people trying to drink in Tumon while still underage.

Roxanne Benavente, a business owner who has extensive experience running bars in Tumon, echoed this concern.

She also questioned why there was a bill to help restaurants serve alcohol for takeout when bars are completely forbidden to operate in any capacity by executive order.

GHRA president Mary Rhodes, as well as other supporters of the bill, acknowledged that the bill can’t help every business or industry on Guam, nor was it designed to do so.

She said it’s not meant to be a silver bullet but one of several measures that could be taken to help as many people as possible.

Senator Joe S. San Agustin, who sponsored the bill, said he hopes the committee will be able to iron out the kinks in the bill and bring it to the floor during the next session in November.