Kerala’s bar owners and government-run liquor retailer BEVCO are exploring loopholes in guidelines to bypass the Supreme Court directive banning sale of alcohol within 500 metres of highways. Many are planning to relocate entrances to their premises.
At Paruvur in Ernakulam district, a beer and wine parlour, which lost licence after the new regulation came into effect, has constructed a zigzag passage within an enclosed piece of land. The parlour was 150 metres from a highway. To overcome the distance barrier, the bar’s owner closed the main entrance from the highway and reopened a new gate from the rear. A 250 meter zigzag walkway was built leading to the new gate. Three bends were constructed using pre-fabricated concrete slabs.
Excise (central zone) joint commissioner Muhammed Siyad said: “Once their application for renewing the licence reaches our office, we will take a fresh look at the distance issue.’’
At Thodupuzha in Idukki district, BEVCO has shifted its new outlet to a building in a 4.5 acre rubber plantation. The building falls within 500 meters from a state highway.
Bar owners say the distance barrier could be defined as distance from roads to bar rooms in hotels. Many hotels have bar rooms inside their buildings and entrances. By closing or breaking some walls, the distance stipulation could be met within a building. Accordingly, bars, beer parlours could be opened if excise department renews licences.
Alcohol and Drug Information Centre’s India chairman Johnson Edayaranmula said the distance from a highway to a bar should be “as the crow flies”. He said that the Kerala high court had earlier ruled that the distance should be calculated from gate to gate. “Hence, the move to bypass the 500-meter distance regulation by constructing zigzag road is illegal and against the spirit of the SC verdict,’’ he said.