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‘HC verdict an endorsement of government policy’

Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy

Thiruvananthapuram: Welcoming the Kerala High Court verdict upholding its new liquor policy that restricted foreign liquor bars to five-star hotels, Congress-led UDF government today said the order would come into effect from tonight itself resulting in the shut down of 300 bars below the prescribed category operating now.

Hailing the verdict, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who is now in Dubai, told the media that “the verdict is another step towards the realisation of a liquor-free Kerala in the long run.”

“The verdict clearly shows that the liquor policy adopted by the government was correct,” he said.

State Excise Minister K Babu told reporters here, “Henceforth, only 24 five star classified hotels in Kerala will serve foreign liquor in bars and the rest of bar hotels would be closed by 10.30 tonight.”

“The 300 bars were now operating on the strength of court order and with today’s verdict they will also be closed,” Babu said.

There were more than 700 odd bars below the category of five star hotels functioning in the state when government brought in the new liquor policy in August last. As an immediate fallout, 418 bars were closed.

However, following criticism that the policy would adversely affect tourism sector and taking into consideration the plight of those who lost jobs in the closed bars, government decided to sanction beer and wine parlour license to these bars with a condition that they should be hygienic.

“The verdict is a clear recognition of government’s policy that envisaged reduction in the availability of foreign liquor in phased manner with an objective to have total prohibition in ten years time,” Babu said.

There would be a reduction of 90 per cent in the availability of foreign liquor in the state with the closing of bars below the five star category, he pointed out.

Babu said as part of the policy, the now closed 300 bars also would be given licence to run beer and wine parlours if they wanted it.

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