Kerala heading for total prohibition, only 5-star bars from April next
THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The UDF government in Kerala is
heading for a total prohibition in phases, as it has decided to shut down over
700 liquor bars attached to hotels below the five-star status, besides making
Sundays ‘dry days.’
The decision, taken in a meeting of the UDF leadership
presided by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, also marked the resolution of the
long-drawn feud in the state unit of the Congress and the coalition over the
question of renewing licences of 418 bars which were found to be lacking in
The decisions will be formally recommended to the
Chandy Cabinet to act upon. The UDF leadership had earlier resolved to take
firm measures to bring down availability of liquor to the common man and take
the state to its goal of “total prohibition” in a phased manner.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, chief minister Chandy
said the 418 bars which had been lying closed since April this year would not
Also, another 312 bars will be closed down, subject to
legal advice. In case there were some legal hitches in shutting them
immediately, they would not be allowed to run business from the next financial
The decision would mean that only five-star hotels
will have bars, Chandy said. Regarding the retail sales through the outlets of
state Beverages Corporation, the number of such outlets would be wound up by 10
per cent every year.
Apart from the existing dry days, which include the first
day of every month, all Sundays would be dry days in the state, taking the
total liquor holidays to a minimum of 52 a year, it was decided in the meeting.
The question of renewing licences of closed bars had
created sharp divisions in the Congress in the state.
Ever since he took over the state unit, KPCC President
VM Sudheeran had stood firmly against renewing licences to 418 bars temporarily
closed on the basis of CAG reference on lack of proper amenities.
However, a section in the Congress was of the view
that the government should adopt a more practical line on the issue by giving
time to the bar owners to upgrade the facilities. The key UDF partner Indian
Union Muslim League also came out supporting the policy of reducing the
availability of liquor.
The meet also decided to take up a massive anti-liquor
campaign in the state for which one per cent of the sale turnover of the
Beverages Corporation would be utilised. After the ban on arrack by the then AK
Antony Ministry two decades ago, the Beverages Corporation has been the sole
sales agency for Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL).