THIRUVANANTHAPURAM : The state government 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 Excise, 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 remaining in the financial year to bar owners. The government will buy back the liquor already purchased by the bars. ‘’We will have to return Rs 45 crore,’’ Chandy said. Every year, the government will close down 39 liquor shops, 34 run by the Kerala State Beverages Corporation (Bevco) and five by Consumerfed. Chandy had announced on Thursday that ten percent 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 consumers to fund the rehabilitation package for bar employees and for awareness programmes.
Chandy was evasive on the question of church wine, but said that liquor sold through CSD canteens of the military did not come under the purview of the state government. With the liquor policy approved, the ongoing inspection of the 418 bars has turned irrelevant, 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.