After Punjab tweaks law to beat highway ban, CITCO set to call for ‘with liquor’ financial bids

Anticipating that the ban may be lifted as Chandigarh implements Punjab Excise Act with MHA approval, a person who has submitted the highest bid in the ‘with liquor’ category would be awarded the contract then.

Written by Hina Rohtaki | Chandigarh | Published:July 4, 2017 8:50 am
Kalagram in Chandigarh. (Express/Hardik Abrol)

With the Punjab Cabinet approving the consumption of liquor at its hotels and restaurants on highways and hope brewing in for Chandigarh hotels and restaurants, the Chandigarh Industrial and Tourism Development Corporation (CITCO) has decided to call two financial bids from each bidder for its restaurant, Baithak, one without liquor and one with liquor.

Anticipating that the ban may be lifted as Chandigarh implements Punjab Excise Act with MHA approval, a person who has submitted the highest bid in the ‘with liquor’ category would be awarded the contract then. Till the time the ban is in place, the highest bidder in the ‘without liquor’ category would be given the unit, which has to have a licence for 10 years.

Baithak, a Punjabi-style restaurant at Kalagram, had been lying shut since November 2015. The bar here cannot function as Baithak falls within 500 metres of the state highway post liquor ban by the Supreme Court. “Recently, we received two bids in the tenders floated for running Baithak and that was done without bar facilities mentioning the SC ban. However, that has been cancelled and the board has decided that fresh financial bids be called to two bids – with liquor and without liquor because everybody is hopeful of the ban being lifted,” said a senior official. “Bar on this route earns a lot of revenue for the board,” he added.

CITCO Workers’ Union Chairman Kashmir Singh said it was due to poor management by the officials that such a place which saw crowd from Panchkula as well wears a deserted look. “The board has decided to call bids for ‘liquor as well’. But why doesn’t CITCO run this unit on its own,” he said.

The licence fee for Baithak is Rs 6.05 lakh per month without bar facilities. Sources said a separate licence fee ‘with bar’ facility would be fixed before calling the bids. Tenders were previously floated with amusement park, food court and theme park there. It was in November 2015 that Baithak was closed for general public after it was leased out to a private firm. Since then, the board has been incurring losses.

Today, Baithak lies deserted with wild growth all around. The bar here had once hit international headlines in 2007 after it was converted into a condom bar, a first in the country then. It had a condom theme all over its interiors, cutlery, logos and even on the dresses of staff highlighting the use of condoms and safe sex. But the concept was shelved in 2010 and it was converted into a normal bar. Though sales plunged in the first four months, officials later blamed the bar’s concept for poor sales following which the thing was called off.

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