Govt Seals Fate of Bottle; Uncorks New Liquor Policy

Published: 23rd August 2014 07:32 AM  |   Last Updated: 23rd August 2014 07:32 AM   |  A+A-

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The state govern - ment on Friday put the official  stamp on the new liquor policy  that would facilitate a phased  closure of bars and liquor outlets  in the state. A government order  would be out on Saturday. The government has received  legal advice that it need not wait  until March 31, 2015, to shut  down the 312 bars that are open,  Chief Minister Oommen Chandy  said on Friday.  Briefing the media on a high- level meeting he had with Ex - cise, Law and Tax officials,  Chandy said that the policy will  be put before the Cabinet for  ratification. It will be submitted  to the High Court on August  26.

The government will not wait  till the end of the financial year  to close down the 312 bars as it  has received legal advice that the  bars can be shut by returning the  licence fee for the months re - maining in the financial year to  bar owners. The government  will buy back the liquor already  purchased by the bars. ‘’We will  have to return `45 crore,’’  Chandy said. Every year, the  government will close down 39  liquor shops, 34 run by the Ker - ala State Beverages Corporation  (Bevco) and five by Consumer - fed. Chandy had announced on  Thursday that 10 per cent of the  outlets will be shut every year.  Bevco runs 338 outlets in all and  Consumerfed, 44. The first 39  outlets will be shut this year on  October 2. October 5, the first  Sunday after October 2, will be  the first new ‘dry day’ announced  in the liquor policy.

Liquor prices are also set to  go up, the Chief Minister said.  The policy says that five per cent  cess will be collected from con - sumers to fund the rehabilita - tion package for bar employees  and for awareness programmes.  Chandy was evasive on the ques - tion of church wine, but said that  liquor sold through CSD can - teens of the military did not  come under the purview of the  state government.  With the liquor policy ap - proved, the ongoing inspection  of the 418 bars has turned irrel - evant, but it would be continued  up to August 26 when the High  Court’s advice would be sought.  The High Court last week had  instructed the government to  submit the new liquor policy and  a report on the standards of the  shuttered 418 bars on August  26.   


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