Watering holes along highways go high and dry following SC order

Watering holes along highways go high and dry following SC order

Watering holes along highways go high and dry following SC order
Thousands of watering holes, iconic clubs and swanky pubs went high and dry as authorities went full steam to enforce a Supreme Court order banning liquor sale along highways while states gauged revenue losses.

In Delhi, 100 restaurants, liquor vends and bars, including those in five star hotels, along the six national highways passing through the state stopped serving alcohol.

The state's excise department is planning more action but is already flooded with representations from licence holders, who claim their outlets do not fall within the 500 metres range laid down by the apex court.

In neighbouring Noida, the number of vends no longer serving drinks was 42 while out of total 292 bars in Gurugram, the Supreme Court order would impact 106, officials said.

In Maharashtra, the liquor ban on highways has affected at least 1,000 star hotels, the Indian Hotel And Restaurant Association (AHAR) president Adarsh Shetty said. These include the VIP Lounge in the city's domestic airport, he claimed.

Maharashtra government expects it would lose an annual Rs 7,000 crore, because of the ban. The state's Excise Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule has said that alternative ways to increase the revenue would be explored.

The visitors to three Trivandrum Club, Trivandrum Tennis Club and Sri Mulam Club in Thiruvanthapuram would miss their drinks as the bars in these places have been shut. Overall in Kerala, one of the highest liquor consuming states, 1,956 liquor bars and toddy shops have been affected.

These include outlets run by the Beverages Corporation and Consumerfed, 11 bars in five star hotels, bars in 18 clubs, 586 beer wine parlours and 1,132 toddy shops which have been told to stop serving liquor.

Kerala is looking at revenue losses as well as the tourism industry being affected. State Excise Minister G Sudhakaran however has made it clear that the apex court directions would be followed.

In Chennai, over 35 star category hotels serving liquor in and around the city and around 250 elsewhere in Tamil Nadu would be affected, it is estimated. Business has taken a blow in Mahe enclave in Puducherry where liquor is cheaper than Kerala attracting tipplers from neighbouring districts. At least 32 shops come within the 500 meters range in in Mahe.

Puducherry PWD Minister A Namassivayam said that the overall revenue loss to the Union Territory is expected to be around Rs 60 crores. In Karnataka, the state's Wine Merchants Association is considering meeting Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah with a representation to denotify state highways.

"The Supreme Court order would impact about 60 to 70 per cent liquor licences issued in the state," the Association's General Secretary Honnagiri Gowda said. In Goa, some 30 per cent of liquor outlets have shut down following the Supreme Court order. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar yesterday met representatives of liquor traders to look at their issues.

The Supreme Court has in an order said that Liquor vends within 500 metres of national and state highways will have to shut down from April 1.

The court has given some exemptions to Sikkim, Meghalaya and Himachal Pradesh. It also held that areas with a population up to 20,000 may have liquor vends at a distance of 220 metres from the highways. In West Bengal, the police and excise were keeping a vigil on both the national and state highways so that the order was strictly followed.

Not a single liquor outlet was open on Kona Expressway, Bombay Road. Some had even "Bar Closed" notices. Several bars in the districts of Howrah, Hooghly, South and North 24 Parganas, Burdwan were also shut.

However, bars alongside the EM Bypass, VIP Road, and parts of Jessore Road were having business as usual as the state government had recently dropped them from the list of state highways. A few residents of the Kona Expressway alleged that liquor were sold through the rear door of shops which had their front doors closed.

When contacted, an excise official said that round the clock screening was being done and bar owners had followed the instructions of not opening the outlets.
"A bar owner, shocked by the order of the apex court said,"We were completely surprised by the order. We do not know what to do now. Our business has been badly affected."

In Rajasthan, out of the total 7760 liquor shops in the state, 2800 fell within the 500 meter radius from highways. "Nearly 2800 shops in Rajasthan were affected due to the Supreme court order. Most of the shops were shifted elsewhere from their highway location and remaining few were closed because of non-availability of suitable location," O P Yadav, the Excise Commissioner said.

He added that with the Supreme Court modifying its order and reducing the distance from 500 meters to 220 meters in municipal areas having population less than 20,000, the department would now revise the number and location of shops in light of the new direction.

The Rajasthan government officer said that the impact of the decision on the revenue collection would only be assessed after first quarter of the new financial year.

Haryana government officials expect about 200 bars will be closed down in the wake of the order while the Punjab officials say they are work out the exact number.

"Out of 478 bars in Haryana, 194 bars will be affected by the Supreme Court order. Out of 194 affected bars in the state, maximum of them are in Gurugram. Out of total 292 bars in Gurugram, this order will have implications on 106 bars," a Haryana government official said.

There could be estimated revenue foregone to the tune of Rs 100 crore, the official said. Meanwhile, in the Union Territory of Chandigarh, about 90 bars including pubs will be affected because of the Supreme Court order.

An office bearer of Chandigarh Hotel and Restaurant association said because of closure of bars in the city, a large number of people employed in these shops would be jobless.

Expressing concern over nearly 1.5 lakh fatalities occur in road accidents every year, the Supreme court had said that no new liquor vend shall come up along national and state highways while those already having licenses will have to shut shop by April 1, 2017.