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Features

Bengaluru pubs & bars caught allowing underage drinking

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This is the dark underside of the bar & pub business. Owners acknowledge the problem of being complicit by not checking for age proof. Take owners to task says NRAI’s Ashish Kothare.

Karnataka might be raking in more moolah year-on year by way of taxes its guzzlers pay, but the revenue isn’t free of contributions from under-age patrons. Young people in Bengaluru are having their first drink earlier and getting together in pubs to celebrate.

Conceding that underage drinking is a grave concern, Bengaluru excise commissioner Umashankar S R said: “I have personally seen this happening. It has been a fortnight since I took over as commissioner. Just days before I took charge, I visited a few microbreweries and pubs to understand what I would be dealing with. I have seen children being served alcohol without checking their identity cards. Some of the young people are bold enough to enter in their uniforms.” The legal age of drinking in Karnataka is 21.

Over the last four days, TOI visited three bars or pubs every day and in five of the 12 bars checked, those below the age of 21 were being served alcohol. While this was a random check and the percentage of violators is just a little over 40%, the practice of serving liquor in violation of law is not new in the city.

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One of the main reasons such patrons are encouraged is that most underaged drinkers often visit pubs in groups and to celebrate occasions like the end of exams, birthdays and spor ts victories and spend a considerable amount of money for one or two tables they occupy .So some managements skip the mandated ritual of checking the ID card, saying it may inconvenience other customers who are of legal age but don’t look it.

In one of the five places where TOI found evidence of underaged people being served liquor, a group of boys, including one in a uniform walked in.Having identified the college, which recently made it mandatory for its PUC students to wear uniforms, the reporter struck up a conversation with the boys and confirmed that it wasn’t just one boy, but all five who were under-age. Another group of their classmates was at another pub, which was more expensive, they said.

An office-bearer of the Bars and Restaurants’ Association agreed that the practice of serving underage drinkers exists. “I must tell you that we don’t encourage it, but we aren’t doing enough to discourage it,” he said, adding that the matter has come up in several meetings.

Ashish Kothare

Ashish Kothare

“Every place that serves alcohol must adhere to this law. One cannot blame parents for letting children out. Even if a father brings children along with him, the rule must be followed strictly, just as it is illegal for a father to allow his underage son to drive (even if he sits next to him). This rule must be applied and the onus must be on the establishment serving liquor,” said Ashish Kothare of Association of Bar and Restaurant, Pub and Hotels. Kothare is also the NRAI chapter head for Bengaluru.

On an average, alcohol sales have contributed 20% as excise tax to the coffers, with INR 15,200 crore collected in the previous financial year ending March 31, 2015. There has been a steady increase in the collection over the last few decades.

Bar attendants told TOI it is no longer beer that is the first alcoholic beverage teens are introduced to. “That trend is changing. Now, underage drinkers order rum and whiskey too, but vodka is the most popular in that age group,” said a waiter.

Source: Times of India

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