Goa’s party bubble pops as EC cracks down on liquor

Goa’s party bubble appears to have popped early this year, with a large number of liquor retailers and wholesalers in the coastal state downing their shutters to avoid over-zealous excise officials from raiding their premises, on the instructions of the poll authority.

The Election Commission-imposed restrictions have impacted the business of night clubs, bars and restaurants in the tourism-savvy state, which attracts more than seven million tourists every year with its beaches and nightlife.

According to Dattaprasad Naik, president of the All Goa Liquor Traders’ Association, owners of retail and wholesale outlets had no option but to down their shutters, because of constant raids and elaborate inspections conducted by excise officials on the instructions of the EC. 

"We have even presented our case to the Chief Minister, who later called a meeting of representatives of the Chief Electoral Officer, police and excise officials two days ago, but there has been no let up in the harassment. Keeping daily stock record is impossible because most of the stores are run by single owners without any staff support," Naik told DH.

Naik, who is incidentally a state BJP spokesperson, added that top wholesalers of alcohol in Panaji, who drive the business of hundreds of smaller retail stores have already shut shop for fear of excise raids. 

"In areas like Mapusa town, Mandrem sub taluka, nearly all outlets have shut down," Naik said.

Meanwhile, Goa’s Town and Country Planning Minister Vijai Sardesai met CEO Kunal on Thursday, to apprise him of the situation. "They are facing a lot of hardship. Although they have the license to keep their clubs open till 4 am, excise officials crack down at 11 pm itself," Sardesai said.

CEO Kunal told reporters said that he would speak to EC-appointed excise department "flying squads" to exercise caution while inspecting business establishments, when asked about the hardships faced by promoters of liquor stores.

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