People in the Punjab hospitality sector will switch off lights on Tuesday from 8pm to 8.30pm.(HT Photo)
People in the Punjab hospitality sector will switch off lights on Tuesday from 8pm to 8.30pm.(HT Photo)

No Covid relief, hospitality sector in Punjab to observe black evening today

Industry wants exemption on annual license renewal fees from April to September and permission to clear electricity bills and property tax in instalments
Hindustan Times, Bathinda | By Vishal Joshi, Bathinda
UPDATED ON SEP 22, 2020 03:51 PM IST

The hospitality sector in Punjab will observe a ‘black evening’ on Tuesday against the state government’s “indecisiveness” in extending relief to them during the Covid-19 crisis.

Satish Arora, state president of the Punjab Hotel, Restaurant and Resorts Association, said all hotels and restaurants will switch off lights from 8 pm to 8.30 pm as a mark of protest.

Arora said the state authorities had backtracked on their assurance to support the industry which has suspended work since the lockdown was imposed in March.

“Since bars are closed, we expect exemption on annual license renewal fees from April to September. As there was no business done due to the lockdown, we demand permission to clear electricity bills and property tax in instalments. But the government is indifferent to our legitimate demands,” he added.

Earlier, assurances of help had come from a group of ministers (GoM) from Punjab, including finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal, cabinet ministers Sadhu Singh Dharamsot and Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria. They, along with excise department officials, held a meeting with a delegation of the association in Chandigarh and said they would recommend to chief minister Amarinder Singh the waiver of annual license fee for bars for the year 2020-21 from April to September, in view of the losses suffered due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Also, representatives of the state hospitality industry were assured that quarterly assessed fee levied on bars for the first two quarters, ie, April to June and July to September, 2020, would be waived.

On August 14, the Punjab excise and taxation department had started renewing the annual licences for pubs and bars even as these outlets remained closed due to restrictions on serving alcoholic beverages.

“Our ‘halla bol’ campaign is aimed at exposing the shallow assurances given by the GoM. As the government has not notified any relief to the hospitality sector, the state excise department has started mounting pressure on us to deposit the fee, or else licenses would be cancelled. The hospitality industry contributes significantly to the GDP, but during the crisis we are not getting support from the government,” said Arora.

Meanwhile, assistant excise and taxation commissioner (Bathinda) Sukhwinder Singh said on Tuesday that the state government had not taken a decision on the license fee waiver.

“The bar owners are required to submit an undertaking that they will pay the fee from April to June if the state government does not give any rebate for the three-month period. There is no deadline for renewal,” he said.

There are 1,500 bars and over 500 pubs in various districts. Hardly anyone has applied for licence renewal across the state, say sources in the excise department and hospitality sector.

Excise licences for liquor vends, pubs, bars and restaurants are renewed annually by March-end.

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