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Highway Ban Relief for Restaurants and Hotels across India

Posted: Friday, 08 September 2017 14:42


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Highway Ban Relief for Restaurants and Hotels across India

Sep 08: Thanks to the Supreme Court clarifying in their August 23 order that licensed establishments within municipal areas selling liquor do not come under the purview of its ban on liquor sales within 500 metres of a state and national highway, the state excise departments have been issuing or renewing the licenses suspended earlier and the business is limping back to normal in cities like Nashik, Pune, Delhi and Bangalore

Click For Large View‘Dear Sir, Sharing joy of serving first glass of wine after 5 months and 6 days. Big Relief, super delighted. Regards. Vinod’

The short but sweet message last evening from Vinod Pande, the wine loving General Manager of The Gateway Hotel, Nashik, was music to the ears and a DRC to the palate. Since April 1 the wine and liquor service had been shut down at this Taj Property, a landmark in Nashik even before the city self-proclaimed itself as the Napa Valley of India.

Pande has been enthusiastically promoting the hotel as a wine destination and in fact making it as a hub for wine tourism which is extremely important for the wine industry in Nashik. My friend from Bordeaux John Salvi MW who I took to Nashik for his maiden visit of the wineries, and I was most impressed with his demeanour and enthusiasm to make the hotel wine-centric. Suddenly there had been dark. His wine programmes had been silenced on April 1, 2017.

The Honourable Supreme Court had opined a few months earlier that if the highways were denotified, the 500m rule would not apply. Everyone was sure it was a matter of days before the Government would take the positive action. Several State Governments had been quick.  No such action was forthcoming from the government for cities like Nashik. Finally it took an explicit clarification by SC on August 23 to say that ‘licensed establishments within municipal areas selling liquor do not come under the purview of its ban on liquor sales within 500 metres of a state and national highway.’

It took further 10 days for the Maharashtra State Excise department which issued orders on last Monday to renew liquor licences of such establishments, which were suspended on April 1. State Excise Commissioner Ashwini Joshi issued the order on Monday bringing relief to more than 15000 establishments which were shut down when the December 15, 2016 apex court order was implemented from April 1, 2017. The Gateway Hotel was one of these establishments. Therefore, Vinod Pande, General Manager of the Gateway Hotel which is an integral part of Nashik, can once again say Jai Ho (Cheers) with a glass of wine.

The angst of the established industry selling wine and liquor mny be gauged from the statement issued by Dilip Datwani, president of the Western India Chapter of Hotel and Restaurant Association. He says, "It is unfortunate that business suffered and jobs were lost over the last five months, but the clarification has brought a huge relief. The notification will provide relief to approximately 25,000 restaurants and 5,000 hotels."

The excise notification says that establishments along state or national highways passing through municipal corporations, municipal councils, cantonment boards, and nagar panchayats can now renew their licences after paying requisite licence fees and fulfilling other compliances.

According to Mumbai Mirror, Mumbai was less affected by the ban in comparison with the rest of the state as the Maharashtra government denotified the Western Express Highway and the Eastern Express Highway in Mid April, thus allowing these establishments to reopen. But the establishments within 500 metres of a state or national highway in 10 municipal corporations including Thane, Pune, Kalyan-Dombivli, Navi Mumbai, Aurangabad and Nashik had remained shut, resulting in huge losses.

The highway liquor ban had reportedly resulted in cancellation of 15,699 licences out of 25,513 liquor licences in Maharashtra, causing an estimated revenue loss of Rs 7000 crore. Out of 13,650 restaurants and permit rooms across the state, 9,097 faced cancellation. Out of 126 clubs, the licenses for 27 had been cancelled.

The ban had already been lifted a few days earlier in Delhi and Restaurants like Indian Accent and hotels like The Roseate and Radisson Blu that had stopped serving alcohol following the ban have had their licenses renewed after excise department officials de-sealed their premises last Tuesday. Ditto for Bangalore where the urban areas were able to get the licenses starting  August 27 according to sources.

Badly hit earlier by the demonetisation and followed by the ambiguous  highway ban, the wine producers and importers can heave a sigh of relief and hope that the next hurricane is a long distance away to get their productions and sales back on track.

Subhash Arora

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