No nod for pubs, breweries in State

Cabinet finalises excise policy for 2020-21 without change in dry days and bar timings

The State’s bid to create a late-night world of pubs and bars to attract global investors and woo the IT workforce will remain a non-starter for now.

The government has walked back from a proposal to implement a relatively non-restrictive liquor policy that entailed breweries and draught beer pubs, reduced number of dry days and enhanced bar timings.

Instead, the Cabinet, which finalised the excise policy for 2020-21 on Tuesday, gave a fillip to the toddy sector that employs thousands of workers who constitute the traditional support base of the Left Democratic Front (LDF). The compulsions of realpolitik appeared to have carried the day.

Liquor is a politically sensitive subject in Kerala, and the ruling front seemed wary of a political backlash from the Opposition, powered by Church-backed prohibitionists. The upcoming local body polls and Assembly byelection in Kuttanad also may have acted as a brake.

Boost for toddy sector

The government has given toddy shops considerable latitude in conducting their business in a limited regulatory atmosphere. It 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 the current 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 licensees 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 that for bar hotels from ₹28 lakh to ₹30 lakh. Airport bar fee has been hiked from ₹1 lakh to ₹2 lakh.

There is no change in the conditions for grant of liquor licences. Three-star and above hotels continue to be eligible for bar licence. It also slapped a fee on distilleries that outsource blending to save on import tax.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 3:27:51 AM |

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