Kerala govt walks back on proposals for breweries, pubs and fewer dry days

Kerala has the highest per capita consumption of alcohol in the country. | Representational image

Kerala has the highest per capita consumption of alcohol in the country. | Representational image   | Photo Credit: Reuters

The new liquor policy approved by the Cabinet gives fillip to traditional toddy sector; political compulsions seem to have driven Cabinet decision

The Kerala Government has walked back on a proposal to implement a relatively non-restrictive liquor policy in the State.

It had purportedly shelved the move at the last minute to dodge a possible backlash from church-backed prohibitionists and the Opposition.

Local body polls and Kuttanad Assembly by-election are on the cards this year.

Kerala has the highest per capita consumption of alcohol in the country and liquor policy is a politically touchy issue.

The original proposal reportedly entailed sanctioning breweries and draught beer pubs.

Also read | Only in principle decision on opening of pubs: Kerala Minister

The Government had also considered reducing the number of dry days and enhancing the timings of bars and beer parlours.

Its stated aim was to encourage global investors, create employment, enrich public coffers and reinvigorate the ailing tourism sector.

Boost to toddy sector

Instead, the Cabinet, which finalised the excise policy for the 2020-21 financial year on Tuesday, gave a fillip to the traditional toddy sector that employs thousands of workers who constitute the support base of the LDF.

The Government has legalised the sale of food through toddy shops. It has increased the upper limit of the legally permissible yield of coconut sap from a palm from 1.5 litres to 2 litres.

The offset of 200 m from places of worship, burial and educational institutions will not apply to buildings from which toddy parlours operate currently.

An estimated 5,071 toddy shops will go under the hammer for a lease period of three years soon. Current licences will get preference for a permit.

The Government has upped the liquor licence fee for private member clubs from ₹15 lakh to ₹20 lakh, and for bar hotels from ₹28 lakh to ₹30 lakh. Airport bar fee has been hiked from ₹1 lakh to ₹2 lakh.

Also read | Spirited Kerala consumes legal liquor worth ₹523 crore

There is no change in the conditions for grant of liquor licences. Three-star and above hotels continue to be eligible for bar licence.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had hinted that a less restrictive liquor policy would aid investment in the State.

However, compulsions of realpolitik appeared to have impelled him to shelve the proposals for now.

Several global majors had told the government that the lack of a late-night world of pubs and restaurants and other venues to socialise had hobbled its efforts to attract investment.

The IT workforce had also flagged the absence of a robust nightlife as a put-off for corporates.

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 10:05:49 PM |

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