In Two Weeks, Kerala Will Have Bars Only in Five-Star Hotels

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In Two Weeks, Kerala Will Have Bars Only in Five-Star Hotels

On August 21, the government had refused to renew the licences of 418 bars.

Thiruvananthapuram:  The happy hours are almost over - the clock is ticking. The Kerala government today decreed that all bars of the state - except for those in five-star hotels - will have to close within a fortnight. The deadline has sent shockwaves through the tourism industry. There are only 15 five-star hotels in "God's own country". And the tourist season begins in September. (Read: Need a Drink? Scratch 300 Bars in Kerala Off Your List)

"How is the government planning to meet the needs of the tourists, considering it is one of the highest revenue and employment generators for the state?" asked EM Najeeb, president of Confederation of Kerala Tourism Industry. (Also read: S Ramadoss Wants Tamil Nadu to Take Cue from Kerala in Anti-Liquor Drive)

The government's decision is to affect 300-odd bars in the state. Those are the ones that survived an earlier purge. On August 21, the government had refused to renew the licences of 418 - which were said to be sub-standard.

Former Union minister Shashi Tharoor sounded yet another note of caution. "The shutdown of bars may affect social schemes. Some schemes might be cut down since the government earns 22% of its revenue from the sale of alcohol," he said.(Kerala High Court declines to stay government decision on bar licence)

But the UDF government is unfazed about pursuing its zero liquor policy. Excise Minister K Babu told NDTV, "After September 12, none of these bars will be allowed to function." Closure notices are to be sent out by August 28. For the affected workers, the government plans a rehabilitation package. (High Court Says Cheers to Kerala Government's Zero Liquor Policy)

The state maintains the decision has found support among the masses. "The rate of road accidents, mental and physical disorders and domestic violence (due to alcohol and drug usage) has been high," Kerala Congress chief VM Sudheeran, the man behind the decision, had said.  

Earlier today, the Kerala High Court also showed support for the decision. The court, in fact, asked the government to amend the existing liquor laws and inform it about the changes on September 17.

The observations came during the hearing of a plea for the renewal of licences of the 418 bars, which have been shut for several months.


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