The Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government announced the new excise policy for 2014-15 on Friday here with increased license fees for liquor shops and tougher liquor-control regulations.

The new policy increases the fine on consumption of alcohol in public places ten fold -- from the existing Rs.50, to Rs.500 for the first violation and Rs.1000 for any subsequent violations.

Further, contrary to speculations that the BJP government would relax the number of hours liquor shops stay open, the government has decided to stick to the 10-hour duration announced by the previous Congress government.

Under the previous BJP government (2003-2008), liquor shops used to stay open for 14 hours -- from 9 am to 11 pm.

When the Congress government came to power, this was changed from 10 am to 8 pm, in keeping with chief minister Ashok Gehlot’s professed allegiance to the Gandhian principle of liquor-control.

Another significant measure announced in the new policy relates to the closure of “ahatas” or in-house drinking enclosures in domestic liquor shops. Presently, such ahatas are permitted under section 69-C of the Rajasthan Excise rules 1956.

The government has decided to amend the rules and discontinue the practice of setting up ahatas.

The policy also empowers villages/wards to vote on continuation or closure of liquor shops.

“If 20 percent voters demand closure of a liquor shop in their area, the demand will be verified at the appropriate level and the proposal will be put to vote. If there are 51 percent votes in favour of the resolution, a provision will be made for the closure of the shop from the next financial year,” the policy states.

The new policy brings good news for heritage hotels -- which are a plenty in Rajasthan -- with bar license fees slashed across all categories.

Fees have been slashed from Rs. 8.25 lakhs to Rs. 4.25 lakhs for heritage-A, from Rs. 5.25 lakh to Rs.1.75 lakh for heritage-B and from Rs. 3.25 lakh to Rs. 1 lakh for heritage-C categories.

Serving liquor at weddings has been made costlier, with the annual license fee for wedding gardens/marriage halls being hiked five fold -- from Rs. 5000 to Rs. 25000.

While bar license fee for older restaurants has remained unchanged, norms have been relaxed for new restaurants applying for a bar license, with the required minimum annual turnover of restaurants relaxed from Rs. 15 lakh to Rs. 10 lakh and the minimum 'cooked food billing' relaxed from Rs. 10 lakh to Rs. 5 lakh.

License fee for setting up Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) outlets has been increased across the state, with the fee for Jaipur and Jodhpur hiked from Rs. 13.50 lakh to Rs.16 lakh. For other divisional headquarters (including Mt. Abu and Jaisalmer), the fee has been hiked from Rs. 11 lakh to Rs. 13 lakh.

For district Headquarters like Alwar, Sikar, Bhilwara, Pali and Sriganganagar, license fees have been hiked from Rs. 7.5 lakh to Rs. 10 lakh.