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Kerala bars allowed to remain open till Sept 12

PTI Thiruvananthapuram | Updated on March 12, 2018

File photo of an inside view of a bar in a Kochi hotel. KK MUSTAFAH

17-day breather to meet legal formalities, stock clearance

The 312 bars attached to three- and four-star hotels, which had been asked by the Kerala Government to close down from Tuesday as part of its new liquor policy, have got a breather. They now have time till September 12, well after the Onam festival, to serve the last peg.

A meeting of top-level government officials called by Excise Minister K Babu on Tuesday decided that the bars be given 17 days to down the shutters.

Legal advice

The decision was taken in view of legal advice that if the bars were not given a 15-day notice, the courts might strike down the shutdown order. The bars will be served closure notice on Thursday.

The decision, said to be on the advice of the Advocate General, is also based on two practical considerations. One, the fear that increased bootlegging and supply of hooch during the Onam holidays might trigger hooch tragedies, thus undermining the prohibition plan. The possibility of hooch tragedies has always been the biggest argument against imposing prohibition.

Secondly, the bars currently have large stocks of liquor which will have to be purchased by the government when they are closed. Now that the bars get two more weeks to remain open, they can very well sell most of the stocks during the Onam season. Some of them had already started distress sale at half the prices.

D Rajkumar, president of the Kerala Bar Hotels Association, told Business Line that the 15-day notice period was a legal requirement as it was one of the conditions laid out in the bar licence. The association has questioned the closure order in the Kerala High Court, which has listed the case for consideration on September 18, he said.

Closure formalities

As part of the procedures under the Abkari Rules, monopoly retailer Kerala State Beverages Corporation will take over the residual stock from these bars.

The government will return to the bar owners the licence fees for the remaining seven months of the financial year, the Minister told newspersons in Thiruvananthapuram.

The total amount being returned would not cross ₹40 crore in the latest assessment, Babu said, adding that the State Cabinet would take a final call on the modalities to be followed in the matter.

Published on August 26, 2014

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