Kerala government on Tuesday said that 312 bars, which are in three and four-star categories, would be closed on September 12, three days after Onam festival, a season known for record sale of liquor in Kerala.
After a meeting of official, Excise minister K Babu told the media that all bars would be given mandatory notice of 15 days, starting on Thursday this week. After the closure of bars, the excise department would take back the remaining stock of the liquor.
Earlier, the government had decided to shut the bars on Tuesday. However, pro-Prohibition organisations questioned the move, which, according to them, would help the bar owners to move court. Hence, acting upon legal advise, the government decided to issue notice to bar owners.
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The minister said the government has not taken a final decision on closure of beer and wine parlours. Also a decision is pending on the liquor license of various clubs. However, the annual license fee of beer parlours was raised from Rs 4 lakh to Rs 5 lakh.
Currently, Kerala has 121 beer/wine parlours mainly in major tourism centres. Earlier, the move to allow new beer parlours was dropped due to protest from various quarters.
Meanwhile, a division bench of the Kerala high court, which is hearing a bunch of petitions of bar owners, opined that the government should amend Kerala Abkari Act if the new policy should stand legal scrutiny.
The government on Tuesday submitted the new Abkari policy, which envisages at closure of bars and liquor-free Kerala in phased manner. Two weeks back, the court had asked the government to submit its liquor policy and examine all closed down 418 hotels for their standard. The government on Tuesday informed that it could not complete the examination of all closed bars and hence sought more time. the court posted the case to September 17 for next hearing.