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Liquor traders see bleak future, want clarity from government

gurgaon Updated: Feb 10, 2017 00:02 IST
Leena Dhankhar

The Supreme Court ordered a ban on liquor sale within 500 metres of all national and state highways.(PARVEEN KUMAR/HT PHOTO)

Hoteliers and liquor industry in Gurgaon is worried about its future as neither the excise department nor the government has any clarity on how the distance of 500 metres from the highway, which was set by the Supreme Court while banning liquor trade along speed ways, will apply. There is also confusion as to whether aerial distance or motorable distance would be taken into account while measuring the distance.

The apex court directive banning the sale of liquor within 500 metres of state and national highways is likely to deal a killler blow to the liquor trade in Gurgaon and across Haryana. The bench made it clear that such an order was necessary for the safety and security of highway commuters who are often tempted to down a few drinks as they drive past liquor shops along highways. It also expressed serious concern over 150,000 fatalities every year in road accidents, a majority of them attributed to drunk driving.

There are about 1,243 liquor vends in Haryana, of which 650 have to be relocated as per the Supreme Court order. The vend owners are worried and want the government to find a solution to their problem. They said they invested crores of rupees in setting up the businesses and stare at an uncertain future in the light of the Supreme Court order.

In Gurgaon, as many as 293 pubs and bars are likely to be adversely affected by this order. These include pubs at 12 five-star hotels as well. There is a distillery at Narsinghpur along the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway, which falls in the zone where the liquor ban will apply. It’s management, too, has been left to sweat about its future in the wake of the apex court directive.

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There are 89 liquor vends in the district, of which 43 cannot be relocated, an excise department official said.

Vend owners say shifting the establishments is also a major problem as there are restrictions pertaining to the vicinity to schools, religious places, hospitals and residential areas which make it that much more tougher to shift these liquor vends.

“We are staring at a bleak future as there seems to be no plan in place to safeguard our interests. Neither the excise department nor any other agency has cared to suggest a way out for us. There are many traders who would be ruined if asked to relocate,” Ankit Singh, manager of Lake Forest Wine, said.

Hoteliers, meanwhile, said majority of their customers come to partake of the quality food and liquor served in these joints and if they are forced to shut down, business will be hit badly.

“The Galaxy Hotel sees a majority of clients from abroad and they prefer us over others because of the quality and variety of the liquor served here. If we are forced to shut operations, our business will be hit hard,” Pradeep Bhardwaj, general manager, Galaxy Hotel, said.

The excise and taxation department, Panchkula, has written to the Attorney General seeking clarity on how the ban on liquor trade within 500 metres of national and state highways will apply.

In Maharashtra and other states, the excise department has asked the liquor vend and restaurant owners to measure the distance of their establishments from the highways and send a report to them.

While issuing the directive, the Chief Justice of India noted that the Centre had sought the removal of these vends in 2007.

The Haryana government had removed liquor vends from highways, including shops along NH 8 that runs through Gurgaon, following a Punjab and Haryana High Court order in 2014.