Parel-based estate agent Rahul Kadam was surprised to find an additional Rs 20 in his bill after he had drinks with three friends at a Matunga bar on Sunday. The bar owner had charged each of them an extra Rs 5 — the price of a one-day permit to drink.
The move was prompted by surprise raids conducted by the Zone IV of Mumbai police at several small permit rooms from Bhoiwada to Parel on Sunday. Police officers said they had found most patrons drinking without a permit — a rule that had been made mandatory by the State Excise Department.
While some patrons were arrested, some were just fined. AP Nalawde, assistant commissioner of police, Bhoiwada, refused to reveal the exact number of those booked and the money collected in fines.
“We do not have the figure of number of people in custody. They were booked under section 66(1) B which amounts to drinking without a permit,” he said. Henceforth, people drinking in bars or buying booze from a wine mart will have to hold a permit in their pockets.
Sources in the excise department, requesting anonymity, said drinking permits were mandatory only to stop minors from drinking and that the one-day pre-paid permits were being issued to all patrons. The police, while checking permits, did not crosscheck the age of the holders, they alleged.
Bar-owners had allegedly bought at least 1,000 permits from the Excise Department after the drive, said the sources.
However, the Association Hotel And Restaurant (AHAR) alleged that the police were not eligible to check drinking permits on their own. “According to the law, only the state excise officials can conduct such raids and police can only assist them. They are simply harassing customers and disrupting business,” said Santosh Shetty, general secretary AHAR.
Joint Excise Commissioner SR Kudle said, “I cannot comment. Only the additional director (vigilance) can explain the matter.” The vigilance director was not available for comment.
A delegation from AHAR met Deputy Commissioner of Police Sunil Ramanand on Monday. “He said our complaint was baseless,” added Shetty.
The association now plans to have a joint meeting with the police commissioner and excise commissioner.