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Kerala announces new liquor policy, bars in 3, 4 -star hotels to reopen

Under the new liquor policy, all bars in three and four -star hotels would be allowed to reopen in Kerala.

india Updated: Jun 08, 2017 23:09 IST
Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
Kerala,Liquor,New Liquor policy
Under new policy, Kerala govt will give liquor licence to hotels that are three star or above.(HT File Photo)

Here’s some spirited news for those looking for a sundowner at a cosy bar in the southern state of Kerala.

About 700 closed bars will reopen as the state’s CPM-led government revised the liquor policy on Thursday and allowed licences to three-star hotels and above.

Star-category hotels can also serve toddy, the popular local brew.

These bars were closed two years ago during the previous Congress-led government, which sought to make Kerala a “dry” state with total prohibition on alcoholic drinks by 2023. Only five-star hotels were permitted to serve liquor.

Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said prohibition has been ineffective around the world because the record shows people go to any extent to get high, even narcotics. His government would rather give priority to abstinence than a blanket ban.

“The previous government’s liquor policy was a flop, statistics show. There was no let-up in consumption. Besides, we have to consider the plight of 40,000 employees working in the sector,” he said.

The Congress, which is in the opposition now, rejected the chief minister’s remarks.

“Our government closed the outlets in view of the alarming consumption rate. This government removed all restrictions. It is suicidal,” party leader Ramesh Chennithala said.

Church organisations too criticised the government’s move, saying it is chasing money at the expense of people’s health. Liquor revenue accounts for around 25% of the Rs 40,000 crore the state earns from various taxes and services.

Church leaders and anti-liquor activists staged a protest in front of the Kerala assembly and asked the Pinarayi Vijayan government to stick to the previous policy.

Archbishop of the Latin Diocese, M Susaipakiam, called the government’s step “cheating”.

Bishop Joshua Mar Ignathios of the Syro Malankara Church said: “Liquor is going to flow freely … the Left shouldn’t forget the people voted them to power not for this.”

The tourism industry, however, was overjoyed.

The new policy has a slew of measures, including allowing liquor outlets in the three domestic airports of the state. The minimum age to drink liquor is raised from 21 years to 23.

Bars can remain open from 11am to 11pm. In tourist destinations, they will get an extra hour — 10am to 11pm.

The government also decided to constitute a toddy board for the welfare of workers in this traditional sector.

Outlets closed in the wake of a Supreme Court ban on sale of liquor within 500 metres of national and state highways will be allowed to relocate.

First Published: Jun 08, 2017 20:00 IST