Opening of liquor outlets in residential areas of Puducherry sparks protests

In recent weeks, protests have erupted in several areas; residents complain of haphazard parking noise; government officials say permits are only being given under the tourism category

December 15, 2022 04:19 pm | Updated December 16, 2022 02:54 am IST - PUDUCHERRY

 Residents staging a road blockade near Ezhai Muthumariamman temple in protest against opening of a resto bar in the residential locality at Muthialpet in Puducherry on Sunday

Residents staging a road blockade near Ezhai Muthumariamman temple in protest against opening of a resto bar in the residential locality at Muthialpet in Puducherry on Sunday | Photo Credit: S.S. Kumar

The opening of more outlets of Indian Made Foreign Liquor (IMFL) and resto bars in residential areas has led to an outcry from sections of residents across the city. In several areas, residents are up in arms against the government’s decision to open more outlets and resto bars in the dwelling areas.

In recent weeks, protests have erupted near Kamarajar Manimandapam on East Coast Road, and at Samipillai Thottam and Muthialpet. Residents of the Boulevard area are also unhappy with the decision to allow bars in their locality.

“There are already about 10 liquor outlets in a 500-metre radius of our locality. The government has decided to open one more outlet that will only add to our woes. In addition to the bars, there is an arrack shop. The new outlet is going to be opened in a thickly-populated area,” said Iswari, a resident of Samipillai Thottam.

Several resto bars and bars have come up at Boulevard in recent months. In addition to the trouble that the bars cause at late hours, the haphazard parking of vehicles has become a major concern for residents.

“Most of these bars and resto bars function till late at night during weekends. It will be very noisy. The most disturbing factor is the parking of vehicles. The visitors park two-wheelers and cars in front of houses. We find it very difficult to get access to our house,” said a resident of Old French Quarters. He said several elderly people are residing alone in the Boulevard area, and they find it difficult to move around in the evenings because of the parking of vehicles. “The government should direct the police to increase patrolling in the evening and at night in areas where bars are located. At least the presence of the police could force the bar owners to streamline parking near their outlets,” he added.

According to Sunaina Mandeen of PondyCan, the idea of opening of cafes and boutiques in the White Town area was understandable. “It is totally thoughtless to have bars in a heritage town. Tourists can walk around the nice streets during day and go out to have a nightlife. We cannot have bars which function late at night in the residential areas,” she added.

‘No permits for retail or wholesale liquor outlets’

Deputy Commissioner of Excise T. Sudhakar told The Hindu that since 1989, the government had not issued permits for retail or wholesale liquor outlets. The department was only issuing permits for opening bars and resto bars under the tourism category. The distance criteria for opening bars near schools, religious places and residential areas were not applicable under the tourism category, he clarified.

The department had issued around 40 permits for bars and resto bars in the recent months under the tourism category, he said.

“Tax proceeds from excise is the major source of revenue after the GST. Hoteliers prefer resto bars to cater for the weekend crowd. But we have issued these permits with strict guidelines, including mandatory installation of acoustic panels, doors and deployment of hotel staff for traffic regulation. The owners also have to comply with time regulations. Whenever we get complaints, the staff conducts inspection to check violations. People are free to report to us if hoteliers are conducting parties beyond the prescribed time and causing disturbance. We will take stern action against such violators,” he said.

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