FROM GOA to Kerala and Maharashtra to Delhi, the hospitality industry is fearing a dip in business and overall occupancy, as there is a huge installed capacity of hotels around highways and airports, after the Supreme Court confirmed that the liquor ban within 500m of highways would cover pubs, bars, restaurants and hotels, too.
“I am sorry to hear that the Supreme Court took this view. Uniform ban like this will be extremely detrimental to the industry. There are hotels on or near highways around airports, tourist destinations, industrial estates and major towns,” said Arun Nanda, who heads the CII Committee on Hospitality and is the chairman and founder of Mahindra Holidays and Resorts.
“How does safety on highways get effected if guests staying in those hotels have a glass of beer or wine with dinner? It is unfortunate that instead of ensuring that truck drivers comply with rules of not driving after consuming alcohol, we put a total ban on serving or selling alcohol next to the highway,” said Nanda.
In Delhi, for instance, all the 10 operational hotels at Aerocity, situated close to the Indira Gandhi International Airport and within 500m of NH-8, are set to be impacted.
“For Aerocity, the land was allotted by the government for commercial purposes and to set up hotels. Now it will get impacted because of the decision. I think that there should be a more integrated approach between the government and the judiciary. I feel that it is not a well thought-through move as highways pass through cities. It will impact the overall hospitality industry,” said a top executive with a premium hotel situated in the area, who did not wish to be identified.
In Goa, the verdict directly affects 789 wine shops, all of which are retail units within the 500m limit. Further, 2,289 bars and restaurants, which includes iconic restaurants like O Coqueiro, will have to withdraw their liquor menus. The most popular and largest mall in Goa, in Porvorim, will have no liquor sold from Saturday.
“A total of 3,210 units are affected. We have met Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and asked him to intervene. The excise department has measured the distance as the crow flies. The driver will not walk to a retail shop, he will use an approachable road. The excise department needs to reassess the distance and the method of measuring it again. We can probably save 1,000 units if that is done,” said Dattaprasad Nail, president, Goa Liquor Traders Association.
In Kerala, almost 700 beer and wine parlours out of 850 face closure — only five of the 32 five-star hotels in the state, which sell Indian-Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL), would be able to sell liquor. In Maharashtra, about 15,500 establishments are likely to get impacted, of which more than 12,000 are bars and restaurants, according to an estimate prepared by the Indian Hotels and Restaurant Association.
Similarly, around 2,800 liquor vendors along highways in Rajasthan will get affected by the judgment. Rajasthan Excise Commissioner, O P Yadav, said, “We had undertaken a survey after the initial judgment and figured there were 2,800 vendors. Now with the latest clarification by the apex court, we will have to undertake a fresh survey for hotels, bars, etc., once we get a copy of the order.”
(With inputs from ENS Mumbai, Thiruvananthapuram, Goa and Jaipur)