Come July 1, the famed watering holes of Bengaluru’s central business district may face the threat of closure to comply with Supreme Court’s directive of banning liquor shops within 500 metres of any highway. The stretches of MG Road, Brigade Road, Residency Road and also neighbouring areas such as Indiranagar, Koramangala have already been served closure notice by the State Excise Department to comply with the Supreme Court order. This is the catch: Six national highways crisscross the city and these pubs fall under the ambit of these regulations. This move is likely to affect around 350 pubs and bars besides the various star hotels which dot these roads. The state government is set to lose Rs 50-100 core in licence revenues, if these pubs are closed.
The order from the Excise Department said, “As per the SC order, we are instructed to close any shop selling alcohol within 500 metres from national and state highways by June 30. The relaxation that liquor – as per State rules – could be served in these areas given that they are within the city and have a population of more than 20,000 has also been struck down.”
According to the Excise department officials, these pubs can operate only if they relocate. This, is not an option for many of the pub owners who have blamed the state government for being slow in approaching the Union surface transport ministry to de-notify those areas which falls under national highway. Ashok Sadhwani, owner of a couple of pubs in Bengaluru, said, “We don’t have a choice but to shut down as we don’t have a licence till the government sorts this out. The government has to understand how much revenue they had been making from us and now the losses are also on them.”
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The Karnataka government has decided to recommend to the Union ministry of surface transport to denotify the NH stretches passing through Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) like Corporation, Municipality and Town Municipality. The rationale being that these parts of the road are being maintained by the local bodies.
The National Restaurants Association of India (NRAI) held a meeting in Bengaluru late on Tuesday to decide on the future course of action. Ashish Kothare, a pub owner and NRAI Bengaluru chapter lead said, “Now the way forward is for the government of Karnataka to take it up with the Centre. The State government has been very slow and any resolution will be a bit late.”
A pub owner said that the Karnataka government should have taken the lead from states like Maharashtra, Punjab which have de-notified such areas. Sadhwani remained confident that the issue would be resolved soon