The Haryana Excise and Taxation Department has renewed the licences of pubs in malls along the MG Road, much to the chagrin of the police.
The pubs have been in news for all wrong reasons, including brawls and molestation cases. Recently, a woman pub worker was gangraped by a group of youths.
The police had intensified vigil on the city’s trouble spot in the wake of the rape incident. There were reports that the police had sought the cancellation of the licences so that the short-staffed department could lower its guard on MG Road.
The reservations of the city police had no impact on the excise department. However, the police department is putting up a brave front.
DCP (crime) Maheshwar Dayal told HT, “We are maintaining extra vigil on the MG Road. We are not against drinking but won’t tolerate nuisance. On an average, we arrest six people every night for creating ruckus. We are making extra efforts for peoples’ safety. But we can’t do much about excise policies”.
There are over 50 pubs on MG Road. Sahara Mall, which has been the epicentre of perennial pub brawls, houses six pubs on its third floor.
Pub licences have to be renewed annually. Though licences expire on March 31, the bars served liquor till April 1 this year.
Officials of the excise and taxation department said since no formal complaint had been filed against the bars, the application for renewal of licences could not be turned down.
“We have sent the licences for renewal to our headquarters at Chandigarh. Last year, the licences were renewed in May but this time, it will be done in April. We have not received any objection for not issuing the licence to any particular pub or bar,” said Anil Kadiyan, excise and taxation commissioner (DETC).
“As no reference has been made by anyone regarding brawls at bars in Sahara Mall, there is no reason for not renewing the licences this year,” said Anurag Rastogi, excise and taxation commissioner, Haryana.
Meanwhile, “The stretch outside Sahara Mall is frequented by rowdy elements. People feel unsafe going to the mall along with their families,” said Lokesh Nandal, a local businessman.
“I used to catch up with friends at the Sahara Mall every weekend. But last time, a few boys followed us till our homes. I avoid visiting the place now,” said Anveshika Singh, a student.
“If licences to pubs are not renewed, people would not worry about visiting at night,” said Nitika Saini, a student.