2k more outlets face axe with bars on SC's ban list

Wine merchants to seek denotification of some state highway stretches

2k more outlets face axe with bars on SC's ban list

The Supreme Court’s clarification that the ban on liquor shops alongside national and state highways extends to bars and restaurants has added 2,000-odd outlets to the list in Karnataka that will have to close down or relocate.

The state has already identified 2,767 liquor shops within 500 metres of national and state highways and is in the process of compiling the list of bars and restaurants which will fall under the category.

The Federation of Wine Merchants Associations of Karnataka, which has 85% of the 10,097 excise licence holders in the state as members, has estimated that the total number of bars and restaurants that will have to close down or relocate is 2,047.

While the bars have to close down, restaurants which fall in this category have to stop serving liquor.

The Association members will meet in Bengaluru on Tuesday to decide on the next course of action following the Supreme Court order.

In states like Delhi, Kerala and West Bengal, where the financial year coincides with the excise year, the ban has come into effect on April 1. Outlets in Karnataka will have time till June 30 to close down as the excise year ends that day. In Karnataka, the licence is renewed annually every excise year (July 1 to June 30). 

“We have sought legal opinion, which we will get ahead of our meeting. Relocating or closing down thousands of liquor outlets has huge financial implications both for the licence holders and the state government. We will explore all possible options, including approaching the state government,” Association general secretary Govindaraj Hegde said.

The Association is planning to impress upon the government to “denotify” at least some stretches of state highways and classify them as major district roads to provide relief to the outlets. This has been done in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh.

Upgrading and notifying roads as state highways comes under the domain of the state government. State highways are maintained by it. Denotifying them will mean that their upkeep will be the responsibility of the jurisdictional district administration. There are 146 state highways in Karnataka and 13 national highways pass through the state.

Hegde said a ban on opening liquor shops within 220 metres from state and national highways is already in place in Karnataka since 1995, following a high court order which was upheld by the Supreme Court. Most liquor shops that will be closed are located between 220 and 500 metres from state and national highways and deserve to be given a breather, a wine merchant said.

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