Kerala bars to challenge shutdown order in court

KPM BASHEER Kochi | Updated on November 25, 2017

D RAJKUMAR, President, Kerala Bar Hotels Association

As the Kerala Government prepares to shut down 300-odd bars starting Tuesday, the bar owners are planning to challenge in court the government decision to ban the operation of 730 bars as part of its total prohibition plan.

“We will move the High Court in a couple of days,” D Rajkumar, president of the Kerala Bar Hotels Association, told BusinessLine on Sunday. “We are in consultation with senior legal experts.” The decision to move the court was taken at an urgent meeting of the association.

He said the Government’s decision to get all bars, except those attached to 5-star hotels, closed had come as a bolt out of the blue when the bars, in view of the closure of 418 substandard bars earlier, had been refurbishing themselves spending huge sums of borrowed money. The decision to shut down the bars was “illegal, illogical and unethical”, he said.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy announced on Thursday that the 312 remaining bars would be closed effective from April 1 next year, but now the Government was preparing for the shutdown from Tuesday, he said, adding that the government was in indecent haste.

“How can the Government shut down overnight an entire industry in which thousands of crores have been invested and a large number of workers are employed even without serving an advance notice?” Rajkumar wondered.

He said the bar owners had borrowed nearly ₹5,000 crore from financial institutions to make long-term investment. “How will we repay the loans and how will the employees who will lose their jobs find fresh jobs?”

Rajkumar said private bars sold less than 20 per cent of the total amount of liquor sold in the State and the rest was sold by the Government-owned Kerala State Beverages Corporation (KSBC).

Monopolistic supplier

“How are you going to implement prohibition when the KSBC will continue to sell and all the toddy shops will continue to sell too?” he asked.

Instead of achieving prohibition, the government itself would become a monopolistic liquor supplier, he pointed out.

The bars’ closure would hit the flourishing tourism in the State as the majority of visitors are domestic tourists who opt for budget hotels with bars, he said.

“We will support the Government’s policy of total prohibition if it also shuts down all the KSBC outlets and all the toddy shops,” Rajkumar said.

Of the more than ₹10,000 IMFL (Indian-made foreign liquor) market, the bars’ share was hardly around ₹1,500 crore, he added.

Rajkumar warned that the new liquor policy (of shutting down all 730 bars, barring 16 five-star ones and implementing ban of IMFL sale in a phased manner over the next 10 years) would lead to a series of suicides by bar employees and bar owners.

Published on August 24, 2014

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