Seventy-odd bar hotels that are three- and four-star in Kerala on Sunday resumed vending Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL) as the new liquor policy of the CPI(M) government kicked in. Last month, the government had unveiled the new liquor policy, which allowed all hotels that were three-star or more to sell IMFL provided they did not violate the recent Supreme Court directive banning liquor vending within 500 metres of highways.
Excise department sources said 250-odd hotels in Kerala are in the three- and four-star categories but only less than 100 meet the requirement under the Supreme Court directive. Of the 81 applications, 77 hotels were granted a liquor licence. Besides, these hotels could sell toddy on their premises under the new liquor policy.
In many places, liquor consumers celebrated the reopening of the bars. In Kollam, a group of people burst crackers when the bars were opened at 11 am. Under the new policy, the bars, which had to be closed down following the Supreme Court verdict, have been given the option to run liquor business from another property within the same taluk.
In October 2014, the then Congress government announced a new liquor policy which envisaged total prohibition within next one decade. Accordingly, all 700-odd bar hotels were closed down in April 2015.
Then government limited IMFL supply to 30 five-star hotels. Later, the Congress government allowed the closed down bar hotels to function as beer and wine parlours, to cushion the economic impact and loss of jobs from the closure of bars. However, the citing crisis in the tourism and hospitality sector, the present CPM-led government changed the liquor policy.