PHOTO: .Hotel bars across India are being closed down, courtesy of a new law in India. (Photo via Flickr/Aniket Thakur)
If you’re the sort of traveler who enjoys a cocktail or glass of wine during your evening meal, you might want to plan your next trip to India very carefully. And then consult Google maps to see exactly where your hotel is located.
That’s because India is forcibly enacting a new law that orders the closure of any establishment serving liquor if it is located within 500 meters (1,500 feet) of a national or state highway.
The law which was enacted on December 15, saw its first enforcements this weekend. In Delhi, India’s capital, more than 100 establishments, including hotel and restaurant bars and other retail liquor vendors were shuttered over the weekend.
The city’s Excise Department said it started the sweep on Friday evening at midnight and will continue the push into Monday. According to an article in India’s Financial Express, the department said it closed 50 bars in hotels and restaurants on Saturday alone.
“These teams roam in the night to check any violations,” said the article.
According to government statistics, India’s capital has a total of 700 restaurants and hotels that serve alcohol and nearly 750 other retail outlets that sell spirits. No count on how many of those establishments fall within the restricted zones, although the city apparently is being “flooded” with petitions by liquor license holders who claim they are marked for closure but are located outside the 500-meter range.
The nationwide ruling is problematic for states around the country, who are concerned about plummeting revenues, both from the loss of income from liquor licenses as well as a decrease in tax revenues.
In the state of Karnataka, a popular visitor destination known for its ancient Mysore temples, nearly 80 percent of the 10,051 liquor licenses are for retail outlets, bars and restaurants and hotels.
"The majority of the licences are CL2 (retail), CL9 (bars and restaurants) and hotels,” said Honnagiri Gowda, general secretary of the Karnataka Wine Merchants Association in an interview with the Times of India. “According to our estimates, nearly 70 percent of all such outlets are on the highways across the state and in Bengaluru we are looking at 60 percent of the licences going away."
As a quick fix to the new law, many organizations and associations are calling for the government to denotify (downgrade the status) of state highways, which would provide relief for at least some of the establishments falling in the new restricted zones.
The Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Association of India (FHRAI) is also jumping into the fray. The organization has announced they are seeking legal advice in the matter as they determine exactly how many of India’s nearly 450 four- and five-star hotels will be affected by the ruling.
The FHRAI said an immediate concern is that all ten hotels located near Indira Gandhi International Airport fall within the new restricted zones. Additionally, cautioned the FHRAI, India’s leading hotels could lose their four- and five-star ratings if prohibited from selling alcohol.