At least 77 liquor outlets in three star and above classified hotels were opened today after Kerala government renewed their licenses as part of its new liquor policy, with tipplers making a beeline to the bars. The CPI(M)-led LDF government had last month unveiled its new liquor policy by deciding to open closed bar outlets in three star and above category besides permitting serving of toddy in these hotels from July one.
As the bars opened their doors at 11 am today, heavy rush was seen in various outlets, with the early visitors not hiding their glee at the government’s decision. “We are happy that the bars have opened. We can quench our thirst after a hard day’s work without fearing police”, said an early visitor to a bar in the state capital.
In Kollam, tipplers welcomed the opening of bars by bursting crackers. Kollam DCC president Bindu Krishna led a march of Congress workers before a bar which opened today with party workers distributing ‘sambaram’ (spiced butter milk). The LDF government had decided to renew the bar licenses of bars of three star and above category, which were open until Mar 31, 2014, when the previous Congress led UDF government decided to allow only bars in five star category hotels.
The bars, which opened today, also have to follow the 500 metre stipulation from state and national highways as laid by the Supreme Court. Government has also renewed the licenses of 2112 toddy shops. While the maximum number of 20 bars were opened in Ernakulam district, in Thiruvananthapuram 11 bars opened while in Thrissur nine opened this morning.
The bars will remain open from 11am to 11pm. Meanwhile, Bar Hotels Association sources said they were planning to move the High Court to challenge the government’s decision to renew licenses of bars in three star and above hotels. This was against the principles of equality, the sources said. As part of government’s liquor policy, the age limit for consumption of liquor has been increased from the 21 to 23.
Government took the decision to reopen the outlets considering fall in state revenue and increase in the consumption of intoxicant substances. The UDF policy had resulted in the closure of 712 bars below the five-star category as part of its aim to ensure total prohibition in 10 years time. A majority of these closed bars were later converted to beer and wine parlours.
While describing the UDF’s liquor policy as a “total failure and impractical”, the LDF government has made it clear that it was against total prohibition, but was for abstinence.