The State government on Friday allowed the sale of legal liquor alongside State and National Highways that pass through panchayats with a population of 10,000 and above. An official said that most panchayats in Kerala fell into this category except for a few in forested and hilly areas.
The order has paved the way for the reopening of 500 toddy shops, 141 beer-and-wine only restaurants and two bars that had shut shop after the Supreme Court banned the sale of liquor within 500 m radius of State and National Highways in 2017.
At least 40 beer-and-wine only restaurants have since upgraded their premises to three stars and above classification and will naturally become eligible for bar licence. The Supreme Court had earlier excluded municipal areas from the 500-m ban. Subsequently, Kerala, Assam, Meghalaya and West Bengal moved the apex court pleading that it exclude highways passing through citified villages that formed part of the urban continuum from the 500-m limitation.
The Supreme Court court allowed the plea recently and granted the States the liberty to determine the allocation of liquor licences alongside highways by the population and characteristics of the terrain the thoroughfares passed through.
Distance bar goes
The government said the apex court distance bar would not apply to areas adjudged by the Taxes or Tourism Departments as tourist localities.
The Excise Commissioner had recommended that liquor permits be allowed in panchayats with urban characteristics. The government called for submission of individual applications. Deputy Excise Commissioners in charge of Excise Divisions would vet the applications and issue or deny requests on their merit. The process was online and transparent.
The government appeared to have given a leg-up to the hotel industry that had been crippled by the closure of two-star bars in 2015 and later the apex court's 500-m ban.
Expects more revenue
Officials said the government hoped the measure would generate revenue and employment, help dismantle black market sale and consumption of liquor and mitigate vexingly long queues in front of retail shops.