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New timings lead to losses, say country liquor bar owners

Recently, the government amended the Maharashtra Country Liquor Rules, 1973, and blurred the distinction between urban and rural areas before changing the opening and closing time of country liquor bars in the state.

mumbai Updated: Apr 25, 2019 03:19 IST
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A change in the opening and closing time of country liquor bars across Maharashtra, which was introduced three months ago, has left retailers in Mumbai fuming. (Bloomberg)

A change in the opening and closing time of country liquor bars across Maharashtra, which was introduced three months ago, has left retailers in Mumbai fuming.

They claim the cultural pattern in cities is different from the ones in semi-urban or rural areas of the state and was not considered before taking the decision.

Recently, the government amended the Maharashtra Country Liquor Rules, 1973, and blurred the distinction between urban and rural areas before changing the opening and closing time of country liquor bars in the state. As per new timings, the bars will now open at 8am and close by 10pm.

A senior office-bearer from Maharashtra Country Retailers’ Association (MCRA) said the new timings have hit business hard in cities such as Mumbai.

“Unlike rural areas, where people are at home by 9pm, people in Mumbai work in shifts and visit bars late. Closing bars by 10pm means a loss,” he said, adding that the decision is discriminatory because permit rooms remain open till 12.30 pm.

For the past 45 years, the opening time of country liquor bars in municipal corporation (and A and B class municipalities) areas was fixed at 10am while the closing time was midnight. But for the rest of Maharashtra, it was 10am (opening) to 10pm (closing).

Although no official reason was given for changing the timings, sources from the excise department said observation of people’s drinking habits was the reason.

“It was observed that patrons queued up outside bars from early hours. This forces the licensees to open their establishments much before the official timing [10am]. Despite repeated action by the excise department, violators refuse to mend their ways as they make a profit during the early hours of the day. So the only option left was to revise the opening time to 8am,” said an excise official.

Maharashtra has around 4,200 country liquor bars, of which 600 are in Mumbai. Last year, more than ₹3,500 crore tax was collected through the sale of country liquor in the state.

First Published: Apr 25, 2019 03:19 IST