The Kerala government will issue notices to 312 bar hotels on Thursday, asking them to close their liquor business from September 12. Already 418 bars have ceased functioning since April, pending their licence renewal. Rest of these 312 bars, which do not fall under the five-star category, will have to shut down to comply with the liquor-free state policy of the government.
Excise minister K Babu told the media that the bars will be given a notice of 15 days to ensure that the government takes necessary steps before their closure. The state will take back the liquor stock at these bars after September 12, following which the government will refund Rs 40 crore to the bar hotel owners as their annual licence fee.
This 15-day respite will ensure that these bars remain open during Onam, the most popular festival of Kerala which will be celebrated on September 7.
Earlier, the government had planned to revoke the liquor licence of these bars on Tuesday. But, pro-prohibition organisations blamed the government, saying the undue haste was meant to help hotel owners to fight a legal battle.
He said the government has not decided on the beer and wine parlours, numbering 121. A formal decision has to be taken on their licence. The licence fee was raised from
Rs 4 lakh to Rs 5 lakh annually but it was not meant as a bid to give new licences, said the minister.
Meanwhile, a division bench of Kerala High Court, which is considering a slew of petitions from the owners of already closed bars, said the government has to amend the Kerala Abkari Act if the new liquor policy has to translate into law. The court made this observation when the government furnished the new liquor policy, adopted last week.
The court had earlier asked the government to submit the liquor policy and examine all shut bars for their standard. The reports were slated for court’s consideration on Tuesday. The government informed the court that officials could not complete the inspection of all 418 bars. The court posted the case for furthering hearing to September 18.