The Kerala government and the state's excise department are in a Catch-22 situation after the Kerala High Court asked the government Monday to file its views on prohibiting foreign liquor in bars and hotels before 5 p.m. by Sep 10.
Speaking to IANS, a top excise official said this is going to be a tough ask as it involves numerous stakeholders.
The official said a committee will be formed to decide the government's stand on the high court directive.
"If the aim is to bring down liquor consumption, then it's just not 708 bar and hotels alone. There are 383 government-owned outlets that sell liquor," said the official, who did not wish to be identified.
"If a change in timings as suggested by the court is undertaken, then there are numerous issues. These include labour. Also, every bar has to pay an annual licence fee of Rs.22 lakh. If the timings are changed, then the bars will seek a reduction in the fee," added the official.
Last Tuesday, a division bench of Justices C.N. Ramachandran Nair and C.K. Abdul Rehim imposed a restriction on bar timings in corporation and municipal areas. The court was hearing an appeal filed by the government against a single bench's order quashing different timings imposed on bar-restaurants.
Bar timings in corporation and municipal areas in the state are 9 a.m. to midnight. In villages, such bar hotels open at 8 a.m. and close at 11 p.m.
The Kerala government earns maximum revenue from taxes through sale of liquor.
According to the Kerala State Beverages Corporation, the sole wholesalers of liquor and beer in the state, sales in the last fiscal crossed Rs.7,000 crore. Revenue to the state government by way of taxes crossed Rs.6,000 crore.
"Kerala competes in tourism with Goa and Sri Lanka and despite our state being more expensive than these two, we still get tourists. If bar timings are imposed here, it will be a death knell for the tourism industry here," said a leading resort owner in Kovalam.