CHANDIGARH: Around 1,400 liquor shops on state and national highways in Punjab will be closed from April 1 in accordance to a Supreme Court order passed last year. The move is expected to bleed the state's coffers dry as excise is a major source of revenue for the state.
In a bid to curb road accidents, the Supreme Court had barred liquor shops within 500 metres of national and state highways last year.
"The shops will not be shifted, but will be closed permanently," said a senior government official.
Sources in excise department said that apart from cracking down on liquor shops, the department would issue liquor permits to only those marriage halls which are located 500 metres away from highways.
Bar and restaurants owners, however, have not lost all hope after Attorney General of India Mukul Rohatgi clarified that the apex court's order was only for liquor shops, and not bars and restaurants.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court has fixed March 20 as the date for hearing on the petition seeking clarification and modification of the order.
An officer said that liquor sales were already hit in the state due to demonetisation and three dry days during assembly elections.
After Kerala, Punjab has the highest liquor consumption in the country, selling around 30 crore bottles per year. In the last decade, the number of liquor shops in the state has more than doubled from 5,632 in 2005-06 to 12,000 in 2016-17. The revenue too went up nearly four times from Rs 1,506 crore in 2005-06 to Rs 5,440 crore in 2016-2017.
However, after the closure of shops on highways, the government is expecting to earn only Rs 400 crore more in 2016-17 than that in the last fiscal. It was also estimated that excise revenue in 2017-18 will drop further.