A Supreme Court order has led to the closure of 230 bars and country liquor shops along the Panvel highway and around 15,000 people have lost jobs.
On December 15 last year, the apex court had ordered the closure of all liquor shops along national and state highways across the country.
On March 31, the Supreme Court confirmed the ban, which barred liquor shops, restaurants and bars from selling alcohol within 500 metres of highways and 220 metres from places with a population less than 20,000. An increasing number of drink-driving cases had prompted the apex court to issue the decree.
According to Sudhir Pokle, Panvel excise department inspector, “There are 377 bars in Panvel and Uran regions. Of these, 230 have been shut owing to their proximity to the highway, as per the Supreme court order.”
He said, “This has resulted in the loss of Rs150 crore to the exchequer and around 15,000 people are now unemployed.”
A flying squad of the state excise department has sealed the permit rooms. All such bars and country liquor shops in Panvel region from Kalamboli to Kon along the state highway and also on Uran-Panvel stretch have been closed.
The highway along Panvel region is dotted with bars — several of them employ waitresses and many are dance bars. Each bar employs around 65 people.
Following the closing down of the permit rooms, some bar owners have asked their staff to return to their native place or look for jobs elsewhere.
Despite the SC ruling, some restaurants are still functioning near highways. They have either dropped the word ‘bar’ or have hidden the name.
People who have invested in the liquor business are in the lurch.
“We have invested heavily in the hotel and bar business. A large number of families are dependent on it. They have lost their livelihood,” said Dayanand Shetty, president of Navi Mumbai Hotel Owners’ Association.
“We will meet municipal commissioner Rajendra Nimbalkar, asking for an exemption for bars and hotels on highways,” he added.
Bar owners are also appealing to the state government to intervene.
“The government needs to intervene and help us out. Almost 15,000 workers have lost their jobs in Panvel. There has to be a way out,” said a bar owner.
Residents are happy with the ban. “For years, residents have been opposing bars with waitresses and other liquor establishment mushrooming in the region. They are a bad influence on younger generations,” said Mangesh Bhoir, a Panvel resident.