Certain bar hotel managements in the district are operating more than one bar counter in their establishments in unconcealed violation of licence conditions and liquor laws, say Excise Department officials.

The law insists that there should be not more than one bar counter in a licensed premises.

Officials say they are hard-pressed to take action against such violators allegedly because of their financial and political clout. Excise enforcers recently booked a bar hotel in the city on the charge of unauthorised sale of liquor. They say the licensee was found operating several bar counters in his hotel.

They charged him with violating section 55 (i) of the Abkari Act, which is a non-bailable offence, and moved for the cancellation of his bar licence. However, enforcers alleged that certain politicians pressured their higher-ups to alter the section to 56 (b), a fineable offence which pertains to simple violation of licence conditions.

The government charged bar hotel licensees up to Rs.50,000, in addition to their licensee fee, for permit to serve liquor at restaurants, pool sides, lawns and roof tops.

Bar permit

Excise enforcers say lawbreakers in the liquor business use the permit as a cover to operate several bar counters, which are never specified in the building plan submitted by the licensee to the department at the time of applying for bar permit.

This Onam, the Excise enforcers removed several hoardings that indirectly promoted the sale of liquor through surrogate advertisements. In order to circumvent the law, liquor and beer companies often lend the name of their popular brands to products such as apple juice, t-shirts, mineral water, soda and cut glassware.

Surprisingly, such products that carry the trade name of the liquor brands are rarely available in the market. Liquor companies often competed with each other to promote their brands through surrogate advertisements during festivals.

Officials found that several bar hotels in the district had placed advertisements promoting a particular brand of beer this season.

They booked a few licensees on the charge of putting up large and excessively illuminated boards advertising their bar facility. Sources said that several bars in the district offered incentives, such as one peg measure of liquor free for every two purchased, this season.

The Kerala State Beverages Corporation, the State-owned liquor retail monopoly, had taken action against some of its employees for tacitly promoting the sale of certain liquor brands through government-owned retail outlets.

A few of them were subsequently found to have accepted commission from liquor company agents.