Thiruvananthapuram: More than 700 bars in Kerala cannot be shut down before September 30, the Supreme Court said today, while questioning the state government's decision to allow bars only in five-star hotels. "If you want to ban alcohol, stop it totally, like Gujarat," said judges.
The bars who took the government to court were meant to lose their licenses starting tomorrow as part of the government's plan to turn the state dry within 10 years
The Supreme Court has said a final call must be taken by the Kerala High Court which has been asked to deliver its verdict by the end of the month.
Announcing a 10-year plan that would bring prohibition to Kerala, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said last month that only five-star hotels will be allowed to keep serving booze and even they will have go dry on Sundays. The Supreme Court said the exemption to five-stars appears illogical.
According to the government's plans, state-run liquor stores, where men queue up for their daily fix, will be phased out at a rate of ten percent a year for the next decade, leaving a big hole in the state coffers after alcohol taxes and fees generated more than $1 billion or 6,000 crores in the 2012-13 financial year.
Bar owners who have taken the government to court say if there is an alcohol ban, tourists will start opting for other regional destinations -- perhaps the beaches of nearby Goa or Sri Lanka. A recent survey from travel portal Holiday IQ.com, which polled 5,000 Indians, showed 58 percent of the respondents will change their travel plans because of the new no-boozing policy.
But there is little denial of an alcohol problem in Kerala, which has the highest consumption levels in India.