Liberia: Ministry of Commerce Reopens Fuzion Bar and Restaurant
MONROVIA – The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has reopened FUZION Bar and Restaurant belonging to major opposition figure Telia Urey after controversially shutting down the business on Monday.
Fuzion was closed by the Ministry of Commerce’s Inspector General, Josephine Davies, on Monday afternoon under heavy police presence.
Acting Commerce Minister A. E. Nyemana Wisner told a news conference Tuesday that the Inspector General action was in line to the day-to-day routine of the Ministry.
He further disclosed that Fuzion had failed to pay a fine of US$3,000 imposed on them for obstructing inspection when inspectors visited the restaurant in August this year.
He said no business is above the law, noting that the obstruction of the inspectors led to the imposition of the fine.
He said that the fine was imposed on August 28, 2019 after a staff of the restaurant denied inspectors access to inspect their facilities.
The closure of the Fuzion business Center has sparked up debate around street corners with many describing the act as a witch-haunt.
But the Acting Commerce Minister reacting to such assertions said what transpired at Fuzion was not unlawful.
He explained that the Inspector General on the same day visited several businesses on the Tubman Boulevard including Royal Hotel, Boulevard Palace, SAJJ House, among others.
“I don’t know why people all around here talking about Fuzion and not talking about the other businesses she visited that same day. She visited Royal Hotel, Boulevard Palace, SAJJ House other places but we cannot hear them,” he said.
The Minister, however, did not disclosed as to whether other businesses visited were shut down like in the case of Fuzion.
Reacting to assertion that said the Ministry does not have the power to close a business, Minister Wisner said the law gives the Ministry of Commerce Inspectorate only 24 hours to have non-compliant businesses closed.
He said since Fuzion was closed by the Ministry, the 24 hours stipulated time expired, something he said led to the reopening of the business.
“Because the 24 hours period has elapsed, the MOCI had to reopen Fuzion and at least the lawyers of Fuzion now will continue their dialogue,” he said.
He said though the place has been reopened, the Ministry will not be deterred to carryon such action on any business in Liberia.
He said the government is working in the good interest of all Liberian businesses, saying, “We will not accept any business in the habit of undermining the good atmosphere established by the Ministry of Commerce by allowing businesses to operate in an environment where we see all businesses as equal partners in the interest of good governance,” he said.
Speaking earlier, the Ministry of Commerce Inspector General Ms. Josephine Davies said she acted in the confines of the laws.
Ms. Davies explained that after the fine of US$3,000 was imposed, irrespective of the two-day ultimatum, the management of Fuzion was given up to a week to make payment.
However, after the expiration of one week, the management was given an additional two days to pay the fine but refused to.
She, however, disclosed that there are categories of fine for businesses. She said the Ministry fines small businesses US$200, medium businesses are fined US$700 while big businesses are fined US$3,000.
It has not been established by the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) which responsible to categorize businesses as to which category Fuzion falls under.
Ms. Davies has, meanwhile, distanced her action from being politically motivated, noting “No one is above the law. If you’re government in waiting… it’s not about politics, once you’re doing business in the commerce of Liberia it’s your responsibility to abide by the laws and rules,” she told reporters on Monday at the closure of FUZION.