BENGALURU: The weekend gone by was relatively a quieter one for people around the city as several of their favourite pubs and bars sported polite "closed for business" signs.
With assembly elections fast approaching, the crackdown by the excise department, police and the election commission on pubs and bars staying open beyond usual timings or for other violations has resulted in 752 bars and pubs being closed around the state. In Bengaluru itself, around 200 places that serve alcohol have been issued suspension notices.
There are a total of around 2,200 liquor serving/selling establishments across the city.
In the 2014 national elections, only 14 establishments across Karnataka had their licenses suspended while a total of around 15,000 cases were booked for various poll code violations.
According to a senior officer in the excise department, "The action being taken against those who violate rules is more stringent this year and suspensions are being issued for all major violations."
The officer added that they were targeting all establishments that sold liquor, including bars, retail shops, pubs and restaurants.
That's not all. If you have not stocked up on alcohol or are planning on holding a party, it would be better to wait till the elections are done. With strict instructions going out to all excise department officers to enforce a ban on bulk purchase of alcohol, bars and wine shops have taken to enforcing a limit on how much can be purchased.
According to the election code of conduct, which prohibits the distribution of alcohol during elections, the rules are being enforced to make sure that no candidate is able to purchase liquor in large quantities.
"Since this is appraisal season, I wanted to host a small party at home for my team. But it was impossible to buy more than two bottles of alcohol and as a result, we decided to take the party out of Karnataka and visited Goa instead," said MV Manjunath, a team leader at a financial services company.
But this has affected normal lives according to those who like to relax on the weekends.
"The officials are being much more strict this time and there is no scope for violation of any rules as suspension notices are being handed out quite liberally. For bar owners, a record of visitors, stocks, closing times is to be maintained and if there is any mismatch, cases are booked," said the owner of a popular pub in Indiranagar.
Munish Moudgil, Excise Commissioner, told The New Indian Express, "It is routine enforcement as part of election code of conduct. We have taken strict action against those breaking the poll code."
SPIKE IN ADULTERATED LIQUOR CONSUMPTION LIKELY
The ban on bulk purchase of liquor is likely to result in rise in demand for adulterated liquor.
According to an official, "If the legal supply of liquor is controlled, many people will look elsewhere leading to chances of them consuming adulterated liquor. We have reports of increased supply of fake alcohol from various checkposts along the Goa border."
In 2008, around 110 people had died after drinking adulterated liquor in one of the worst cases that the state has seen.