India: Kerala dilutes liquor policy; over 700 bars set to reopen
Several states, including Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab, Telangana and Haryana and various others had told the apex court that 500-metre distance is much higher and should be reduced. Photograph: (DNA)
India's southern Kerala state on Thursday (June 08) amended its existing liquor policy, allowing three and four star hotels to acquire licenses to sell liquor.
In 2014, the then provincial government had brought in a significant change in the policy by which only five star hotels were permitted to serve liquor, in a move to make the state alcohol-free.
The government's decision virtually led to the closure of over 700 liquor bars below the five-star category across the state. The revised policy, approved by the state government during a cabinet meeting on Thursday, will come into effect from July 1.
Under the amended policy, restaurants with FL-3 and FL-2 licenses would be permitted to serve liquor in banquet halls on specific occasions after paying a fee. The timing of the bars has been changed from 11 am to 11 pm, while in tourist places the timing would be 10 am to 11 pm.
The minimum age to drink liquor has also been raised from 21 years to 23. Under the changed policy, liquor would be made available in both domestic and international terminals of airports in the state. Terming the previous government's policy a "complete failure", state chief Pinarayi Vijayan said de-addiction centres would be opened to help those struggling with alcoholism and public awareness campaigns would be held to warn people about the dangers of drinking.
The decision brought cheers in the state's 700-plus bars that were shut by the previous government, effectively making them beer and wine parlours. The decision has also been welcomed by the tourism industry. Meanwhile, former state chief Oommen Chandy termed the decision "unfortunate" and said the people of the province would oppose the revised policy. Kerala has the country's highest alcohol consumption per capita. The restrictions on the sale of liquor had severely affected the state's tourism.
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