Brison proposes max closing time nightclubs/bars 5:00am, restaurants 1:00am, supermarkets 10pm

   Brison proposes max closing time nightclubs/bars  5:00am, restaurants 1:00am, supermarkets 10pm

MP Rolando Brison making his presentation in Parliament on Monday last week.

PHILIPSBURG--United People’s (UP) party Member of Parliament (MP) Rolando Brison has tabled a draft law for the maximum closing time for nightclubs and bars to be adjusted to 5:00am, restaurants to 1:00am and supermarkets to 10:00pm.

Several MPs have raised concerns about aspects of the proposal with one concerned MP saying that the 5:00am closing time for nightclubs and bars means that St. Maarten run the risk of having an increase of intoxicated drivers on the road at a time when persons are waking up and starting their day, or getting their kids ready for school. Another MP argued that the initiative contributes to what was referred to as saturation of legislation.

Brison tabled the initiative draft law during a meeting of Parliament’s Central Committee on Monday, August 14, the second meeting to be held after Parliament resumed after its summer recess. The draft initiative law is to amend the Permit National Ordinance concerning the trade in drinks and food and the provision of housing with service for a fee in connection with adjusting opening hours and checking noise pollution.


Brison’s proposal is for the latest possible closing times to be adjusted in line with what he views as the current demand. He proposed that the maximum closing time for supermarkets be adjusted to 10:00pm; the maximum closing time for restaurants be adjusted to 1:00am and for “coffee houses” (nightclubs and restaurants) be given their own category with a maximum closing time of 5:00am. He made clear that this does not mean that all establishments in the category can close at 5:00am, indicating that it just means that this will be the latest that these businesses will be allowed to close and noted that the Minister can grant earlier closing times. Paragraph 4 of Article 7, is also proposed to be changed to allow the exemption rule but ensuring that the business has the opportunity to be heard before such a change is made.

As it relates to noise pollution, Brison suggested amendments to Article 52, for the measurement of sound to take place with approved calibrated equipment 30 metres from the location of the business, which he said is a standard used in other dense cities. Perimeters for playing music from an establishment are specified more in the law.

The proposal is also for government to be able to set in the national ordinance the sound levels, so the Residential Economic Policy (REP), for example, can be incorporated into the LBHAM. Parliament will have the opportunity to review the LBHAM before it is published, Brison said. He said also that license holders will be allowed to be heard before a deviation of the regulation is applied to them.


Towards the start of his presentation, Brison said as of 2022, there were about 789 businesses in this sector (food and beverage and nightlife), which directly employs 9,468 (not counting entertainers). He said also that an amount of NAf. 69 million in payroll support was forked into this sector in 2020 and 2021, to keep persons employed and avert closures. This was during the COVID pandemic.

He said the current law being amended dates back to 1949, when the former Netherlands Antilles had developed the regulation for granting permission to sell liquor. In 1963 the law was fully amended to better categorise businesses at that time “bierhuis,” “koffehuis” and “logement” etc. St Maarten adopted this law when it became a country within the Dutch Kingdom on October 10, 2010. The law underwent minor changes since 2010, still, according to Brison, using the original 1963 closing times and music regulation.

MPs take on initiative

A number of MPs weighed in on the initiative during the meeting. United Democrats (UD) Member of Parliament Sarah Wescot-Williams said St. Maarten’s noise control cannot be modelled after any other country, due to issues such as the small size of the island, its density and topography etc. She also questioned several aspects of the law as it relates to the maximum closing hours, noting that the Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transport and Telecommunication (TEATT) will still have the overriding discretion and asked why this will be the case. She asked since the TEATT minister had indicated that the ministry did not have the manpower to execute the control on the ban on single use plastics, how is manpower not an issue as it relates to control over the items in the law proposal.

Party for Progress (PFP) MP Melissa Gumbs said she was confused by the extension of the closing times for nightclubs to 5:00am given that the majority of nightclubs are closed by 3:00AM or 3:30AM the latest. “I know that it was explained that it doesn’t mean that every club will close at 5:00AM, but I think if we’re realistic about human nature and the very nature of capitalism, we can see that there’s a very real possibility that many will aim to close at 5:00AM,” said Gumbs, who expressed concerned for the impact on workers, who already must shut down, clean up, count out, etc. and then drive home exhausted.

“And they won’t be the only ones. If you reckon that patrons will stay and consume beverages until 5:00AM, then we run the risk of having an increase of intoxicated drivers on the road at a time when persons are waking up and starting their day, or getting their kids ready for school.”

She asked whether Brison had consulted with the police regarding their capacity to secure roads and people with these new proposed closing times, and whether they are prepared, with breathalysers and other instruments to handle any reckless or intoxicated drivers as well as whether consultations had taken place with persons who reside in the areas in which these establishments operate when approaching the law, perhaps via community councils. “It’s no secret that residents in almost all districts except the Cupecoy area have complained extensively about the noise levels. Simpson Bay, Cole Bay, Middle Region, Defiance and A.Th. Illidge Road are just some examples so I just want to know if those neighborhoods were consulted on their thoughts regarding noise levels.”

Alluding to the mentioning of the city of Amsterdam’s methodology for measuring noise levels being cited in the “memorie van toelichting” as the basis for the changes to the noise levels permitted, so, measuring the noise levels from 30 metres away from the façade of the establishment, Gumbs said she verified this with a noise technician employed by the Gemeente Amsterdam, and noted that in reality, the measurement is not necessarily taken from 30 metres away but from the closest façade, so whether that is 5, 10, 15 or 20 metres away.

“It’s my belief that we need to think a bit differently for St. Maarten because the noise doesn’t just impact those in the immediate surrounding of the establishment. In the Cole Bay/Simpson Bay area, we have the added challenge of the Simpson Bay Lagoon. For example, before it’s unfortunate demise, the noise emitting from District 721 would travel across the water and disturb residents of Cole Bay, who technically would not be considered as part of the ‘disrupted population’ if we focus solely on measuring noise level impact from 30 metres away,” she explained.

She said also that while Brison mentioned that permits are required to play music, there seems to be a trend now where restaurants convert to a club after their kitchen closes. “There’s a clear difference between a restaurant having ambient music and a restaurant having a full-on Konshens concert,” she said.

PFP MP Raeyhon Peterson zoomed in on what he referred to as saturation of legislation and punched holes in several aspects of the law proposal from Brison as well as highlighted some of the issues pointed out by the Advisory Council that were not addressed.

Peterson said while he understands Brison’s efforts in trying to better the laws for the country, legislation is not an easy thing and Brison does not possess the knowledge or expertise yet to do this at the level that is intended for the High Council of State. “There is a reason why it is not the intention of the law for us as MPs to keep bringing brand new laws. Because what happens then, is you start damaging the structure of our codified system, when you over legislate, without giving the system that actually provisions for executive trajectories to be followed, a chance to actually work,” stated Peterson.

“Not because we are MPs, means we cannot bring forward a law as good as government. It just takes way more time and dedication, which is why the intention of the Constitution is not for us to do this all the time, but to do it in joint effort with government. And when MPs want to bring changes to existing laws, then we have to do our utmost best to do our due diligence, our duty towards the quality of laws we present” he noted.

He said MPs not having legal support is not an excuse to lower the standard. “The level of national ordinances that we bring is of the exact same hierarchy as the national ordinances that government presents. So regardless of where it comes from, the quality needs to be guaranteed to the fullest,” stated Peterson.

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