77 Bars Reopen As Kerala Government Reverses Liquor Policy

The LDF government has claimed that the UDF government's liquor prohibition policy was a failure.

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77 bars across Kerala reopened today after the implementation of the new liquor policy.

Thiruvananthapuram:  At least 77 bars across Kerala reopened today after the implementation of the new liquor policy of the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government, turning Sunday into a celebration day for tipplers across the state.

As part of the new liquor policy, bars attached to three-star hotels and above have been allowed to serve hard liquor, signalling a reversal of liquor policy initiated by the previous Congress-led UDF government. Under the partial prohibition liquor policy implemented by the Oommen Chandy government from April 2014 to March 2017, only five-star hotels and government-run outlets could serve hard liquor. As a result, around 700 bars were asked to shut down and serve only beer and wine to customers.

The LDF government has claimed that the UDF government's liquor prohibition policy was a failure. To back its claim, the government presented statistics that show sales of Indian Made Foreign Liquor dropping by 7 per cent while sales of beer - that was allowed to be served in bars during the period - grew by 80 per cent. 

The tourism department has claimed an annual loss of around Rs 2,000 crore in last two years. 

"This is a very welcome move by the government. Even the government has gone on record to say that the rate of growth of tourism has gone down. Our MICE - Meeting Incentives Conference Exhibitions, have been been going to neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka or even states like Goa. We may get that back," said Sudheesh Kumar, President of Hotel and Restaurants Association.

But the anti-liquor activists have challenged the government's policy in the Kerala High Court. Dr Johnson Edayaranmula, Director of Alcohol and Drug Information Centre, told NDTV, "What the government has claimed is wrong. From 2014 to 2017- the combined liquor sales for the first time in Kerala's history dropped by more than 34%. And the truth is government revenues have been hit, that's why they are desperate. We have filed a very strong challenge in the high court". 

Besides hard liquor, bars have also been allowed to sell toddy, especially in tourist areas. "During our time also we had liquor available, it wasn't banned. But my problem is with the Left government which is drowning people in liquor," said CP John, former palling board member and UDF ally.

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