Biju Ramesh, one of the tycoons in the State’s liquor industry, whose bribery allegations made veteran politician K. M. Mani resign from the last UDF cabinet, said the government should take steps to reopen bars based on facilities and standard instead of looking into the classification.
“Reopening of bars based on classification is an unwise decision. There are many smaller outlets in Kerala where liquor was served for commoners. These bars may not be categorised as three-star or four-star but were decent and standard in terms of service and other facilities. They should be allowed to reopen,” he said.
Three-star and four-star bars in the State have recently been reopened following the CPI(M)-led LDF Government clearing way for them in a path-breaking announcement of its liquor policy last month. More than 700 bars were closed during the UDF regime as part of its liquor prohibition policy. Apart from the tipplers and bar staff, the closure have caused damage to the State’s tourism and hospitality industry.
Ramesh further said that a huge number of people in the state consume liquor on a regular basis. “The closure of bars or the recent decision to reopen the classified bars will not bring about any change in people’s attitudes. Instead it has only produced more harm to families and society at large,” he said.
He said since common people would not find it affordable to have liquor from classified bars, they would definitely start keeping liquor bottles at home. “There were many cases in which children were hospitalised after consuming liquor they found at home. Parents carelessly keep the bottles in the cupboards and the minors cannot be blamed if they consumed it,” Ramesh said.
The three-star and four-star bars in his business chain have not been opened even though they are legitimately allowed to function. “I strictly oppose the decision taken by the government. If the Left Government stands for the commoners, it should give nod for functioning of ordinary bars where the common people are served liquor at affordable price.” He also opined that with people losing their comfortable outlets corners, they have increasingly started consuming liquor on the roadside and other public places in the night which will ultimately result in the rise of law and order issues.
Meanwhile, many bars which were reopened in the state find themselves in a rejuvenation mood, as they can recuperate their business. “Major business in a bar-attached hotel takes place at the bars. It was not possible for these bars to survive with just beer and wine. We had to cut short the number of employees as we could not satisfy their salary requirements,” said Harikumar, who works at a bar hotel in Thiruvananthapuram.
As different opinions arise from various corners of the State following the reopening of more than 70 bars in the State, former Excise Minister K Babu maintained a dignified silence. When contacted, he said he would not want to utter a single word regarding the bar reopening step taken by the ruling government at this stage.
Though there are around 250 bar hotels in the State coming under the category of three-star and four-star bars, only around 70 bars have been able to renew their licences. Most of the other bars have been hit as the Supreme Court had issued an order prohibiting bars on national and state highways. As per the order, only bars operating at a location of 500 m away from the highway are allowed to function.
However, the Apex Court the other day made the observation that there may be nothing wrong in denotifying particular stretches of highways running inside city limits as city roads and this is likely to bring cheers to such bars.