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Ray of hope for 560 shut bars in panchayat areas

Panaji: Hopes remain alive for the remaining 560 liquor outlets in the state still remaining shut following the Supreme Court highway liquor ban order.

The liquor outlets located in panchayat areas have been left out from relaxations in the apex court order and are struggling to get back to their livelihood after remaining closed for business since April 1, 2017.

The affected liquor outlet owners are hopeful of relief after a meeting with government authorities on Wednesday. The meeting was held with Town and Country Planning (TCP) Minister Vijai Sardesai, officials of TCP department, Minister for Tourism Manohar Ajgaonkar and excise commissioner Amit Satija.

The meeting revealed that the excise department is awaiting reports from the office of the TCP and directorate of municipal administration (DMA) to see whether the bars located in village panchayats meet with the apex court condition of being in ‘sufficiently developed areas.’ The excise commissioner indicated that the report findings will determine the fate of the liquor outlets.

It is learnt that the TCP has no objection to giving permission to the bars to reopen on account of the bars being located in sufficiently developed areas, while the DMA is yet to submit its report. The DMA report is expected this week.

President of Goa Bar and Restaurant Owners’ Association Michael Carrasco said, “We are awaiting the outcome of the DMA report. Traditional bars along highways have taken a big hit after the shutdown due to the Supreme Court order.”

In a final clarification, the apex court had left the decision of enforcing its order to the states.

The clarification said that the order does not prohibit licensed establishments within municipal areas and “the state governments should be allowed to determine whether an area covered by a local self-governing body is proximate to a municipal agglomeration or is sufficiently developed as to warrant the application of the same principle.”

The apex court’s highway liquor ban came into force throughout the country from April 1, 2017. It led to the shutting down of lakhs of liquor outlets along 500-metre distance from national and state highways. The purpose of the order was to keep away the lure of readily available alcohol from outlets located along highways.

In Goa, around 3,200 outlets were initially forced to shut down. However, the order was subsequently relaxed and post three-four relaxations, only 560 outlets in the state remained shut. The outlets are located in 49 village panchayat areas. [NT]

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