In limbo, bar owners seek bailout package


Owners of hotels and bars along national and state highways are on tenterhooks following orders of the Supreme Court to close down all liquor shops, including bars in hotels, within the 500-mt distance from highways and waiting for the intervention of the government for some package.

The government too is seriously concerned over the fallout of the SC orders as most of the star hotels along the highways will suffer a dent, hitting the tourism industry in the state. The government is trying to devise some way to wriggle out of the SC orders and sources said, “It may denotify the state highways as a bailout package as a major chunk of revenue will be hit following closure of bars and liquor vends.”

There are over 150 hotels and liquor vends on the Shimla-Kalka national highway alone, including several star hotels, and all these will be forced to close the bars if the government strictly implements the SC orders. “The yardsticks for measuring the distance from highways are unclear so far and whether the 500 mt norm will be applied to these shops or surface area will be taken into consideration is still not known,” said a senior official of the Excise Department adding that the government would implement the decision “in letter and spirit”.

As many as 795 liquor shops and bars are in the danger zone and the government has closed or relocated the vends but in case of bars run by hotels, the situation is different, though the loss of revenue on account of the closure of the bars would not be significant, departmental sources said.

“We are trying to ensure that all liquor units are sold in open auction but if some units remain unsold, the Beverages Corporation will step in. An increase in revenue is expected as the reserve price fixed for auction is already 15 per cent more,” said sources in the Excise and Taxation Department.

Story & Photo: The Tribune