The excise department has issued orders to pub/bar owners to stop serving liquor in open areas. Non-compliance with the order might lead to cancellation of licences at the time of next renewal.
The Haryana Excise Act does not allow liquor to be served in open spaces but there was no clarity about the rule. However, new norms were notified in April and the department has made it clear to pub/bar owners that they cannot serve liquor to customers at roof gardens, lawns and other open spaces. The open spaces can only be used for dining.
Following the order, several pubs have started putting up boards saying liquor would not be served at open spaces and should not be carried outside.
Between June and September, the department issued challans to 85 bars in the city for violating the order.
Pub owners said since Delhi does not allow serving drinks in the open, a lot of people came to Gurgaon. But with the new norms issued by the excise department, business is likely to be hit in Gurgaon.
Only five-star hotels are allowed to serve liquor in open spaces but only on the ground floor after paying 50% extra with the licence fee.
The direction has not gone down well with the pub owners. Bar owners said the restrictions are having a negative impact on business as majority people prefer to have a drink in the open. A large number of people from Delhi, who used to enjoy the open air ambiance after the office hours have started avoiding the pubs, they said.
Arvind Kumar, general manager of The Wine Company, DLF CyberHub, said, “Smoking is not allowed inside and the visitors often carry their drinks out when they go out for a smoke. Our area does not fall on the road. We have proper dining arrangements but people love to enjoy their drink outside.”
Pub owners said the policy was formed for roadside drinking places and not for pub/bars. They pointed at open space drinking near government authorised liquor shops.
“If they won’t get to drink in open air and if they are restricted to only smoking in the smoking zones, they will stop visiting the bars,” Puran Miya, general manager, restaurant division, Vatika Group - Coriander Leaf and 56 Ristorante Italiano, said. “I believe that the new excise policy will make alcohol consumption a more private matter for all customers,” he said.
Ashok Baksi a businessman said, “We always plan a party at a pub/bar where we get open space for drinking and smoking. After a hectic day in the office, no one wants to sit in closed spaces. We want to breathe fresh air. If this option is closed, then why will we visit pubs?”
The excise department said it was only implementing the rules that were changed as per the new policy and not doing something on its own. “We are keeping a regular check on how the pubs/bars function. The objective is to ensure that there is no nuisance for the public,” Aruna Singh, deputy excise and taxation commissioner, Gurgaon,said.
Teams would be conducting regular raids across the city and the licences of repeat offenders will not be renewed, Singh said.