‘Business of bar hotels is inversely proportional to overall consumption of alcohol.'

Bar hotels in the city are feeling the heat with the police and the Motor Vehicles Department tightening the screws on drunken driving.

Kerala Bar Hotels Association (KBHA), representing nearly 200 bar hotels in the district, says that many of their member establishments are in the red and at least a score of them are up for sale considering the accumulation of loss coupled with the tension associated with running it.

Jose Pradeep, working president of KBHA, said that sales, including that of food, had dropped by as much as 50 per cent. Luxury hotels are the worst hit as majority of their customers prefers to drive on their own. M.D. Dhanesh, State general secretary of KBHA, said that the business of bar hotels seemed to be inversely proportional to the overall consumption of alcohol, which keeps rising every year. “In fact, bar hotels numbering around 700 in the State sell less than 30 per cent of the alcohol consumed while half that number of liquor outlets sell the rest,” he said.

Interestingly, there is a marked dip in the number of cases registered by the City Police under section 185 of the Motor Vehicle Act, but not because of reduction in the number of drunks on the road.

The police earlier charged cases after detecting alcohol presence using breath analysers. However, when one such instance was challenged at the High Court and the case was quashed citing the MV Act which says that a blood test should be conducted to confirm the exact alcohol content in blood. The permissible limit for alcohol content in blood is 30 ml of alcohol in 100 ml of blood.

Following this, the number of cases registered under section 185 dropped from 21,571 in 2010 to 15,861 in 2011.

A senior official in the City Police said that after the High Court observed that the police could not initiate suo motu case under section 185, cases were registered under section 279 (rash and negligent driving) of IPC. This has led to the dip in the number of cases under section 185 and a jump in the cases registered under section 279.

However, the marked change in pattern of drunken driving behaviour happened after the Motor Vehicle Department started suspending driving licences for those found drunk in mid-January. “After we noticed that people got alerts on mobiles about our teams conducting checks at one point, we kept moving the checking parties from place to place. This has become so effective that we hardly get any drunken driving in the morning hours,” said T.J. Thomas, Regional Transport Officer, Ernakulam. The RTO and City Police now have alcometers, which give the exact percentage of liquor in blood and the readings from which could be used as evidence in trials.

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