The Andhra Pradesh government has cancelled the existing licences of all the 798 bars in the state and announced a new policy which includes a sharp hike in the fees for obtaining a bar licence. This comes less than two months after the government reduced the number of liquor shops in the state. Deputy Chief Minister (Excise) K Narayana Swamy said the decision is in line with the government’s commitment to implement total prohibition next year.
Under the new policy, which will come into effect from January 1 and remain in force for two years, only 479 bars will get new licences. The application fee for 3-star and above hotels has been increased from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1.45 crore, with a 10 per cent hike after one year, while it has been hiked from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh for the other bars.
“The new (bar licence) policy issued on Friday is aimed at reducing the number of bars in the state by 40 per cent, as announced earlier. On October 1, we had issued a new policy by which the number of liquor shops in the state was reduced from 4,380 to 3,500, and the AP State Beverages Corporation took over these 3,500 liquor shops. These are steps towards implementing total prohibition in the state as Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy promised in his election campaign. It is not a sudden decision, we had announced it earlier,’’ said Swamy.
Swamy said the government’s aim is to reduce the consumption of liquor, whether in bars or elsewhere, and shut down all liquor shops. “We will make it very, very expensive for people to consume liquor in bars, so they will stop visiting. Our aim is to close all bars in the state,’’ he said.
The government has said that each bar can procure only Rs 1.50 crore worth of liquor every month, and set 10 pm as the deadline to close bars. The timing for liquor shops is from 10 am to 9 pm. The AP Beverages Corporation has closed the drinking rooms attached to liquor shops.
“We will gradually make liquor unavailable in the state and put a total ban on sale and consumption,’’ Swamy said.
Meanwhile, the AP Wine and Liquor Dealers Association said it would challenge the government’s decision in the High Court. “It is an arbitrary decision. Not only will 319 bar owners lose their business but hundreds of workers employed by these bars will become unemployed. The new policy also makes running a bar very expensive. The increased levy on liquor served in bars makes consumption much more expensive… We will challenge it in court,’’ said R Subba Rao, member of the association.