Infrastructure & Safety

Restaurants, bars go dry as highway liquor ban kicks in

DELHI: From beach side restaurants in Kerala and watering holes on the Mumbai-Pune highway to nightlife hotspots in Gurugram’s Cyber Hub, the Supreme Court order banning the sale of liquor along National and State Highways forced many establishments to go dry on Saturday.

The court order hit the tourism and hospitality industry hard and shrunk the revenues of many State governments, which face huge losses, reports The Hindu.

In Thiruvananthapuram, more than 50 beer and wine parlours shut shop, while at least one five star hotel lost its bar licence.

Kerala has one of the highest per capita consumption of liquor, and the social and economic impact of the order is yet to be gauged. The State government is also faced with an estimated loss of over ₹7,000 crore in revenue, forcing the government to think of de-notifying State Highways to sidestep the court order.

Officials said turning State Highways into district highways would be considered.

In Tamil Nadu, several TASMAC (Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation) outlets were shut down and a number of hotels and bars in clubs, located on State and National Highways, stopped serving alcohol on Saturday.

The trend was the same in Puducherry. Customers were told this would continue until further orders from the State government.

The Tamil Nadu Bar and Club Owners Association has urged the Supreme Court to reconsider the decision so that FL2, FL3 licensees continue to be granted and patrons can continue using their services. “Already we have drivers and cab services to take customers home. We are ready to put in place any other condition that the government stipulates,” founder Benze Saravanan said.

In Goa, where about 3,200 bars, restaurants, wholesalers, retailers and warehouses face an uncertain future, there was widespread outrage at the apex court order.

The issue even had political overtones, with the Congress charging the BJP-led government with not filing a review petition as it wants to sneak in prohibition through the back door.

At Cyber Hub in Gurugram, the favourite hangout among corporate executives, the 30-odd restaurants have stopped serving alcohol, disappointing many customers.

Lalit Joshi, the manager at ‘Punjab Grill tappa,’ a prominent food-and-drink outlet, said they stopped serving liquor late on Friday evening itself.

‘Oh! Calcutta,’ another restaurant with a well-heeled clientele, had to turn away about 20 customers. “Most of our customers seek drinks with food and almost 40-50% of our business depends on liquor,” said Aftab-ur-Rahman, the manager.

Maharashtra will lose ₹7,000 crore in revenue annually because of the liquor ban, the government said on Saturday.

Excise Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule told the Assembly that of the 25,513 outlets with liquor licences, 15,699 would be affected.

The Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI) said the ban along highways “will spell doom for the industry.”

“Around 35,000 restaurants and bars could face closure or downsizing in western India alone. This decision may lead to loss of employment for more than 10 lakh people directly and indirectly involved in the sector,” said HRAWI president Dilip Datwani.

In Andhra Pradesh, there was confusion among hoteliers. Many hotels in Vijayawada abut highways so technically the court ruling applies to all of them.

“At the moment there is no clarity on the issue. Star hotels can’t afford to stop serving liquor to their guests,” said M. Rajaiah, Managing Director of Hotel Taj Gateway.

Nearly 1,800 liquor shops in 18 districts of western Uttar Pradesh have been affected. Deputy Commissioner (Excise) P.S. Kanade said most of the affected shops are located on national highways 24, 91 and 58.

In Telangana, there are some 1,100 shops and 594 bars along highways. Officials said the government collected Rs 3,000 crore in licence fee from them when they were sold two years ago.


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