With the state government all set to enact a law to prohibit beer bars, wine and liquor shops and permit rooms from using the names of deities, national or state figures and historic forts, bar owners claim that they have been functioning with such names for decades and changing them would hamper business.
While the matter came to light in March in the Legislative Council after a calling attention motion was raised by MLC Amarsinh Pandit and others, the state departments of labour and state excise appointed a 16-member committee on Saturday, aiming to amend the Maharashtra Shops and Establishments Act, 1948. Headed by the labour minister, the committee will submit a report to the state within a month, after which a law will be enacted. A senior official of the state labour department said, “The sixteen-member committee has been appointed to suggest amendments to the Maharashtra Shops and Establishments Act, 1948. It will now be equipped with a provision wherein the names of gods, deities, national figures, and monuments like forts will be prohibited for bars, permit rooms, liquor shops etc. Any attempt to ignore this regulation will result in cancellation of licence.”
The official added, “Once the report comes out, the government will also seek the opinion of the state law and judiciary department before drafting the proposed law.”
Former president of the Bar Owners Association Manjit Singh Sethi said, “I agree with the point that bars, liquor shops and permit rooms should not have names attached to any religion, god, deities. But what’s the issue with bars named after national figures and historical monuments? Besides, this is the same government that named a railway station Ram Mandir, not even Ram Mandir road. A bar situated around this station will always say so and so bar near Ram Mandir. Ironically, this government has a problem with bars and liquor shops named after deities. Why are they allowing such establishments to mushroom around temples and pilgrim areas? The best example is Shirdi. So many liquor shops have come up. What is the government doing about that?”
The Association of Hotel And Restaurants (AHAR) too feels that the law would have a negative impact on their business, but has decided to wait for an official notification from the government.
Santosh Shetty, General Secretary of AHAR, said, “We will wait for the committee to frame the rules and then decide our move. Currently we have received no correspondence from the government pertaining to this. We also need to understand that the law would include hotels and restaurants serving liquor. We are meeting to discuss GST tomorrow, we would also discuss this matter. Besides, changing the names does not just mean changing the board and banner of bars and restaurants, but involves a lengthy process of changing the title. It would be appropriate to comment on the matter at this stage.”
Owners of such establishments are planning to write to the state government, calling it “unnecessary moral policing”.
A bar owner who did not wish to be named, said, “This bar was started by my father and named after my grandfather. As the name also has the name of a goddess, I will have to change it now. We have been running this bar for the past 25 years and it has become a brand. Changing it will have a negative impact on our brand name.”
Another bar owner from Andheri, Sadashiv Shetty, said, “These bars are our source of income and we name them after our deities as a goodwill. We have no intention of insulting the gods. Besides the state government should also discuss this matter with us, before enacting any such law.”