A day after the Haryana excise department asked all pubs and bars in the city, except those in 4 and 5-star hotels, to down shutters by midnight, owners went into a tizzy.
While the department cited frequent drunken brawls as the reason for discontinuing the two-hour extension provision till 2am, owners blamed the ahatas (roadside drinking joints) attached to liquor vends and unauthorised eateries for creating nuisance as they operate without any closure deadline.
The affected owners also accused the Haryana government of promoting liquor consumption by introducing lucrative offers in its “liberal” excise policy. Haryana has only three dry days on January 26, August 15 and October 2 as against 21 in Delhi. Ironically, liquor is available illegally even on these days due to poor implementation of the law.
“Liquor vends open on Holi and Diwali too when chances of drunken people getting into brawls are more. The closure time for liquor shops in Haryana is midnight while grocery shops are required to mandatorily down their shutters by 8pm. Liquor shops can operate and sell liquor through the week but grocery shops are required to observe one-day off every week or seek exemption under various clauses of Punjab Shops and Commercial Establishment Act, which is a lengthy and tedious procedure,” said a pub owner.
The Haryana excise policy also has provisions for opening liquor shops in market areas near residential colonies such as DLF Central Arcade, Qutub Plaza, Palam Vihar Byopar Kendra, Sushant Lok Byopar Kendra and others.
A bar owner who has an outlet in a mall on MG Road said, “The excise policy promotes liquor shops in malls. Home delivery of liquor, which is not allowed under the policy, is openly being offered to lure customers. Gurgaon has 17 liquor vends on NH-8, between Delhi and Rewari border. Isn’t this encouraging drunk drinking?”
Vikram Rana, who runs a micro brewery, said the excise department had shut its eyes to the increasing number of ahatas which run without any regulations.
“Since these ahatas are economical, a large number of people, including anti-social elements, congregate here and create nuisance at night. But the government blames the bars and beer breweries and has banned the two extended hours for which they charge hefty fee.”