Excise department puts end to all queries, bars in town reopen
Manipal: The weekend gone by proved to be anything but a dry one for Manipal as most bars and pubs in the city restarted business in the student town. The shops were forced to shut down post the initial Supreme Court (SC) order that came into effect on March 31, 2017, implementing a ban on liquor vends and shops that were operating within a distance of 500 meters along national and state highways.
The liquor establishments within Manipal had been closed for an approximate period of two months, with their last working day being June 31. But around September 1, many of the regular favourites like DeeTee, Zeal and Hakuna Matata opened up their doors to customers. Pubs and bars in non-municipal areas though have no other option but to shift the location of their business.
The state excise department on August 24 had released a notice shedding light on a later apex court order and clarifying that the licensed establishments within municipal areas/city limits do not come within the purview of the earlier order and therefore are not prohibited from selling liquor.
All that these establishments need to do is get the approval for renewal of their annual liquor license from the Deputy Commissioner to purchase new liquor and restart work now. Also, they can continue to serve any existing liquor stock that they may already have to patrons while they wait for the renewal process to be completed.
Shiv Prasad Shetty, Managing Director, Thallore Group of Hotels, whose 6 establishments including Hakuna Matata had shut down, had already restarted business by August 29 at all outlets. “ The stretch of the highway alongside which Hakuna is located is a municipality road till Parkala and thereafter comes under the panchayat. We would have applied for license renewal earlier, but the notice came during the long holiday weekend. As soon as the excise DC gave permission, the process was very quick and the officials were very cooperative. Most of my staff that had left post ban have come down. We took about four days to prepare for reopening night but we have not made a very big deal out of it. We know the news will carry itself “ he said.
Ramachandra, owner of Manohar Wines said “We are set to restart soon. We are not working with a fixed timeline since this renewal is a long process, which we have partially completed. Once fully done, everything will take off.”
Some other establishments in the town have taken the relocation route and want to stick by it despite the recent notice. Gunakar Shetty, Manager, Bacchus Inn said, “ We have relocated and bought a site which was initially a restaurant next to the Industrial Area near Vijaya Residency. Under the same management as Bacchus, we have started Swati Bar here since August 1st where you are served everything that you used to be available at old Bacchus Inn. We have no plans to move back to our old area.” Zeal – the Rooftop Bar celebrated its opening night by hosting ‘Encore’, the first event of Viva la Vida, a musical initiative for the semester.
Initially, it was considered that denotifying parts of national as well as state highways were the only hope for closed liquor establishments to bypass the SC order and reopen for business, but that is not the case anymore with the new notice coming through. It was the call of individual states to consider de-notification in order to make up for the loss of revenue and the possibility of de-notification saw many states like Punjab, Chandigarh, Rajasthan, Kerala and even Karnataka appeal to the Centre for the approval of the same, a proposal which the Centre could have accepted or rejected.
Once stretches of highways are denotified, the State can declare them as urban or district roads and restart sale of liquor along them, but they are also additionally burdened with the cost of the repair and maintenance of these stretches that now come under them. This would also have interrupted the Centres plans to extend highways. In an instance in 2011, the government of Madhya Pradesh was handed five national highways by the center via de-notification but later the same state government requested the Centre to take back the responsibility of these highways as they could not upkeep it successfully.
With this latest clarification from the SC and the subsequent notice circulated by the Excise department in which highways running within city limits have been exempted from the liquor ban order, the need to denotify such stretches does not arise at all in any State, including Karnataka. This means the process of de-notification and neither the problems associated with it will plague them. This update also comes as a source of relief for bar owners who were earlier awaiting the uncertain fate based on vague chances of de-notification.
Edited by Soumyajit Saha
Featured image courtesy Mahalakshmi R
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