THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: With just a day left for the new excise policy to be implemented in the state, the Excise and Tourism Departments have no clear picture on the exact number of bars to be reopened. Though the Tourism Department says there are 135 hotels with three star and above classification, it has no clue on how many of them would get renewed licence for bars.
The Excise Department, the licensing authority, is also clueless on how many of these hotels are in the queue for bar licence.
However, almost all 338 Bevco outlets will continue to function as the government’s newly announced policy has decided against slashing the number of outlets by 10 per cent every year.
Before the UDF Government decided to close down all bars, except the ones in the five-star hotels in 2014, there were 732 bars across the state. Later, the government decided to close down 418 bars citing poor hygienic conditions. When the Oommen Chandy Government decided to close down all bars except the 30 in five star hotels, shutters were downed on 284.
As of now only 23 of the 30 five star hotels have bars as the remaining seven couldn’t renew the licence as they were located on the side of the national highways.
An Excise Commissionerate source told ‘Express’ the exact number of bars to be reopened could be know only by the second week of July.
“It will take at least 15 days for completing the renewal of licences or granting of new licences at the deputy commissioner-level at the district headquarters. Following the Supreme Court’s notification to enforce the closure of bars within 500m on the national highways, some of the beer and wine parlours would have to be shifted to different locations,” the source said. As of now there are 815 beer and wine parlours. But as bar licences are given only to three star and above classified hotels it cannot be relocated.
Raj Kumar (Unni), an office-bearer of the Hotel and Bar Owners Association told ‘Express’ he has no idea on the number of hotels in queue for bar licence. “As it is the Excise Deputy Commissioners who renew the licences at the district headquarters, the exact number of hotels to be given renewed licence could be known only later,” he said.
For the 34 club licensees in the state, the licence fee will remain the same - `15 lakh. However, only 18 are working now. For serving liquor in banquet halls, a licence fee of `50,000 will have to be paid on a daily basis. Referring to the High Court verdict no licence is required for serving liquor at family functions, a Commissionerate source said it would file an appeal against the ruling.
Despite the decision to reopen bars, dry day for bars and liquor outlets will be continued on the first day of every month. Birth and death anniversaries of Mahatma Gandhi, Sree Narayana Guru, national holidays, International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking on June 26, elections (polling and counting days) and major local festival days will continue to be dry days. The district administration can declare dry days when and where they are necessary.