Hoteliers and patrons welcome move to keep bars open till 12 a.m. but hike in licence fee is steep, say some
“If I get a craving for a drink in the middle of the night, I can now pick up a friend and go to my favourite hangout,” said a regular at popular bars, when he was told about the decision to allow five-star category hotels to keep their bars and pubs open for 24 hours.
Hotels of four-star category and below have been permitted to keep bars and pubs open for an additional hour. “It is nice that the State government is thinking of keeping bars open longer. As long as people don’t abuse it, it is a great thing. It makes a difference if people can cheer till 12,” said Koushik, a regular at the city’s watering holes.
Hoteliers in the city have welcomed the decision to extend timings. T. Nataraajan, Chief Executive Officer of GRT Hotels and Resorts and Honorary Secretary of South India Hotels and Restaurants Association (SIHRA), said: “The government has made this [announcement] after a long time after several representations, which is a breakthrough for the industry. By permitting 24-hour bar facilities in five star hotels, the government seems to be testing the waters. It may soon be extended to other categories of hotels as well.”
Virender Razdan, General Manager, Sheraton Park Hotel & Towers, said: “This is a welcome decision and will help us to serve our international guests better. It will also put us at a par with other States and countries when it comes to liquor service.”
R. Rangachari, Advisor of SIHRA, said that the government could consider extending the time by an additional hour during the weekends. “Also, hotels in the 3-star category and above could be allowed 24-hour bar facilities. Andhra Pradesh has provided such facilities to hotels that pay about 33 per cent more than the license fee,” he said.
R. Srinivasan, Secretary of Tamil Nadu Hotels Association, said the deadline could be extended to 1 a.m., instead of midnight. “Many international flights land in the city only after 10 p.m. and by the time the guests reach their hotels, it is quite late. The extended deadline will cater to such people and also bring in additional revenue for the government,” he said.
‘Fee hike unjustified’
However, a section of hoteliers said that an additional hour would not help them much as it would neither increase the sale of liquor nor satisfy customers. The steep increase in bar licence fees does not justify the extension of the deadline by a mere hour, an hotelier said.
“It is not worth paying Rs. 3 lakh (one star), Rs. 4.50 lakh (two star), Rs. 6 lakh (3 star), Rs. 9 lakh (four star) for an hour. Five-star hotels have been given a 24-hour licence because the government feels that foreign visitors stay only in five star hotels. That is not the case always,” he said.
If hotels choose to serve alcohol longer, it would mean passing on the increase in licence fees to customers. The government also benefits from the 14.5 per cent tax on liquor. “When a customer buys a drink for Rs. 200, half of the money goes to the government. After the imposition of 14.5 per cent tax, from April 1, a few of our customers have shifted loyalties to TASMAC bars. We cannot go in for the increased licence fee without passing it on to our customers and that would be suicidal,” said an hotelier, who did not want to be named.