“Ek daaru ki bottle dena…” was quite a common catchphrase until a few days ago, but it’s better to watch your words now. Because, if you’re found at the bar, you might as well end up behind the bars. No, we’re not kidding!
Putting the “high on the way” to a dead end, the Supreme Court rolled out an order on April 1 to ban liquor sale at all bars, pubs and restaurants stationed 500m away from highways across the nation. Even as the liquor business bears the brunt, booze ban is intended to steer the safety wheel for night travellers.
The rules are set, but are they being followed? We put on our detective glasses, and hit the road to investigate. Call it funny, jugaadu or pesky, but bars and pubs have tactfully turned it into a two-way street!
THE ZIGZAG ROUTE
On the eve of March 31, many guests woke up to a whammy as the staff hurriedly vacated minibars and storage rooms of all alcoholic beverages. While some had an axe to grind, others wiggled out of the way with their wit. To avoid the ban, Punjab changed the National Highway status of its roads to state highway. Quick-witted action, isn’t it?
Well, Gurgaon’s CyberHub turned out to be a little more clever. It changed its entrance to the front side to show that the entry is 1.2km away from the highway. Master plan for no ban, indeed! Another bar — Aishwarya restobar on NH 17 — has created a maze of around 300m to increase its distance from the highway. And reportedly, it spent a whopping Rs2 lakhs to construct the route.
LIQUOR IN A FLICKER
Think about the best 24×7 hot spots to hangout near Delhi-NCR, and Murthal definitely comes to mind. Can you still down a bottle there? “We don’t serve alcohol in our dhaba,” Prince from Gulshan Dhaba at Murthal told indianexpress.com. Not one to mince words, he was quick to add, “But you can get it at a short distance from this location. Abhi ke liye band hai, aur openly nahi bechenge… par koi baahar se aayega toh mangwa denge (It’s closed for now, but we can arrange alcohol).” He also disclosed that wine shops are not on the highway, but have been shifted to the inner lanes.
Another dhaba on the Jaipur-Delhi highway that serves North Indian delicacies till 3am had a similar story. When we called the dhaba and asked if alcohol is served, the person manning the phone, who refused to identify himself, gave a clear sign of no. But once probed, he said, “We can rack up a bottle or two if needed.” Ask him how he would arrange it, and pat came the reply, “Wo humaari tension hai!” The anonymous person even disconnected the phone when he was told we’re from the indianexpress.com.
BLUR THE BAR
As ridiculous as it may sound, a few bar-cum-restaurants are hiding the word “bar” by covering the signboard with a newspaper. Yes, it actually happened on the Western Express Highway near Mumbai. See how Delite Restaurant & Bar did it.
No, that’s not the only one. Gypsy Restaurant & Bar did exactly the same thing. We wonder if they planned it together. Can’t believe it? We have proof!
BOOZE ON SNOOZE
Meanwhile, some restaurants stuck to the rule book. In total disapproval, Saurabh Gulati from Mayur Dhaba in Haryana told indianexpress.com: “We cannot serve alcohol now. Haven’t you heard of the liquor ban?” When asked if he could arrange it, he shook his head and said, “We can’t get alcohol. Koi agar wine pee raha hota hai toh bhi hum allow nahi karte.”
Is there any checking going on? “Not really,” he said, “But there are cameras installed at some places which can tell if alcohol is being served.” However, Rajendar Kumar from Harsh Hotel and Restaurant sounded a little shaky about it and told indianexpress.com that he doesn’t know if there is anyone to monitor it. “Ours is a family dhaba. So, we do not allow alcohol. But, there are some dhabas for truck drivers where alcohol is still served,” he divulged.
With such interesting insights near the highway, we can’t help but laugh at the jugaad — that comes naturally to most of us Indians! The ban may be a wonderful step to put an end to the life threatening menace of drunken driving. But, sadly enough, good policies cannot hold the cards with a poor implementation.
For the rest… till the liquor taps stay shut, unhappy hours are on!