THE SUPREME COURT’S order that does not allow bars in hotels and restaurants at a distance of 500 metres from state and national highways to serve liquor has come as a blow to a majority of the establishments in Chandigarh as they will have to stop serving liquor from Saturday. In Chandigarh, the decision will impact around 70 hotels and restaurants in Sectors 26, 7, 8, 9, 17, 35 and 43. While the owners are concerned over loss of revenue, staff at the hotels and restaurants are staring at a prospect of unemployment.
The Chandigarh administration had recently changed the nomenclature of the state and national highways to district highways with the exception of Madhya Marg and National Highway 21. Most of the hotels and restaurants in Chandigarh are present on these stretches. The hoteliers had pinned their hopes on the SC verdict. UT Deputy Commissioner Ajit Balaji Joshi said the hotels and restaurants on Madhya Marg and NH-21 will not be allowed to serve liquor from Saturday.
The Hotels and Restaurants Association, Chandigarh, called an emergency meeting in the evening. The members discussed several options, including holding protests and meeting Union ministers, to find a way out.
“There is panic among the staff that there would be retrenchment on a large scale. They have already started questioning us. Around 70-80 per cent revenue, especially, for clubs is generated from liquor sales. For hotels and restaurants, it is around 60-70 per cent. The decision will have huge financial implications and will impact tourism as well,” said owner of a hotel in Industrial Area.
“Hospitality segment is the largest employment generator. Unemployment will go up with this decision. The revenue we get from alcohol is essential part of our revenue,” said Ankit Gupta, president of Chandigarh Hospitality Association.
“The customer, coming and staying at the hotel, wants to be served good quality liquor and having no liquor is a big disadvantage. On an average, a day’s sale of liquor is Rs 75,000 to Rs 80,000 and without it, all our balance of paying salaries and other things will change,” said Sunil, manager of a hotel in Sector 26.
As the weekend is approaching, advance bookings of events, parties, band nights are now being cancelled.
“The sale of liquor on Saturdays is high being the club night. This is going to be affected. It is one day when the crowd turns up in large numbers and now with no liquor being served, it will prove to be a dampener. The staff retention will be an issue which the owners will have to see now as majority of the earning is through sale of liquor,” said an employee at S-Cafe in Sector 26.
City residents have expressed their resentment, too. “The ban is not a solution as those who want to drink will and drive on roads come what may. Moreover, livelihood of so many people is at stake with this decision as people who have made investments across these stretches will incur huge losses,” said Aashish.