Kerala 'dilutes' liquor policy

Kerala 'dilutes' liquor policy

The Congress-led United Democratic Front government in Kerala brought in “practical changes” to its controversial new excise policy in an apparent dilution of its proposal for phased prohibition of liquor over a period of 10 years.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the changes are not a climbdown and were in place only to ensure effective implementation of the policy. The changes were incorporated based on an impact study by the labour and tourism secretaries. 

The state cabinet decided to issue fresh beer and wine parlour licences to 418 bar hotels shutdown for poor maintenance. The issuance of licences will be subject to assessment of upgraded amenities.

The decision to shutdown all bar hotels outside the five-star category is being contested by bar hotel owners in a prolonged legal battle. With the changes in place, more than 700 of the 730 bars in the state–Kerala has 21 bars operating in five-star hotels–will be eligible for beer and wine parlour licences subject to assessment of maintenance standards and guarantee of jobs to all staff employed when the properties are shutdown.

The government will stand by its policy to not issue fresh bar licences to three-star and four-star hotels. Hundreds of new beer and wine parlours are likely to open in the state.

The ban on sale of liquor on Sundays through bars and the state-run Kerala State Beverages Corporation (Bevco) outlets has also been revoked. The government, however, reduced the opening hours for bars from 15 to just over 12.

“The dry day policy for Sundays failed to get desired results. Bevco outlets saw a 60 per cent jump in Saturday sales,” Chandy told reporters.

The report highlighted tourism industry’s concerns on the liquor ban on Sundays in the backdrop of cancellation of weekend business conferences.

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