After getting corked up for three years over mutually-competing moralising postures of political parties, liquor bars in Kerala have officially came out of the hiding on Sunday. Out of the 700-odd closed bars, as many as 77 bars (in the three- and four-star categories) are back in business from this week. The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government’s new liquor policy came into effect on Saturday. However, since first of every month is a dry day, the bars bounced to rebirth, only from Sunday. Besides the 77 re-activated bars in the three- and four-star category, there are 23 bars in the five-star category. Under the new norm, bars will be open from 11 am to 11 pm. The bars, which opened Sunday, also have to follow the 500-metre stipulation from the state and national highways.
According to Rajkumaran Unni, an office-bearer of Kerala Hotel and Bar Owners’ Association, more bars are likely to be back in business soon. “The number of bars, which have applied for renewing licences and are eligible, will be known only by about mid-July,” Unni told FE. The Pinarayi Vijayan government has also activated the licences of 2,112 toddy shops. Nearly all 338 Bevco outlets will continue to function, contrary to the previous UDF government’s plan of bringing down the number of liquor outlets by 10% every year.
Out of the 34 clubs, who had licence to serve liquor, only 18 are active currently. To serve liquor in banquet halls, the club will have to cough up `50,000 per day as licence fee. It is yet to be clear as to how many clubs will go for re-activating their licences. In 2014, there were 732 bars across Kerala. The Oommen Chandy government had then decided to close down 418 bars citing lack of hygiene. Later the UDF government had ordered closure of bars except the 30 bars in five-star hotels. Thus 284 bars had closed down. The Congress, meanwhile, is not amused by the reversal of its excise policy.