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Don’t club us with thekas: Restaurants. Too early to jump to conclusions: Excise


The news that five star hotels and restaurants at Cyber Hub and Sector 29 in Gurgaon may lose their license on April 1 in compliance with the Supreme Court’s order that sale of liquor will not be allowed within 500 metres of national and state highways came as a shock to restaurateurs in Gurgaon. Some of them insisted that the order is only for liquor vends, and hotels and restaurants do not fall in the category of retail liquor vends and shops. In December last year, the Supreme Court had directed states and union territories to stop sale of liquor within 500 metres of national and state highways, a move to reduce drunk driving and road accident cases.

While the Excise department says that it is too early to reach any conclusion, restaurateurs hope that there is clarity soon and the distinction between ‘liquor vends and restaurants’ should be highlighted by authorities.

‘No official communication from Excise department, SC’s decision is for ‘retail vends/shops’
Restaurateurs refuted claims that they have been served a notice from the Excise department about cancellation of their liquor licenses, as a follow up to Supreme Court’s order. “There has been no official communication from the excise department to us regarding this and I am sure we have no reason to worry and our license will be renewed without any hassle on April 1. The Supreme Court order clearly mentions ‘liquor vends and shops’ and not restaurants and hotels. There is a difference between vends and restaurants. As per the order, all vends (or thekas) selling liquor within 500 metres of national and state highways should be closed and it was to prevent drunk driving. Hotels and restaurants do not fall under this category,” says Rahul Singh, vice president of National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) and the owner of The Beer Cafe in Cyber Hub. Zorawar Kalra, owner of Farzi Cafe in Cyber Hub, adds that the confusion exists because of the legal language used in licensing.

“I am sure when the honourable court came up with the order they meant all thekas and liquor shops selling liquor unobtrusively and it was to stop menace on highways and drunken driving. Thekas on highways do not fall in the same category as restaurants and hotels. The court’s order is for ‘vends’ and the term mentioned on our licenses is also ‘vends’ and that is why I think excise officials have no clarity. There have been rumours that our licenses may get cancelled, but how is it possible to ban sale of liquor in five star hotels and restaurants in Cyber Hub or in Sector 29? Are they telling us that a guy working and staying in Gurgaon can’t go and have a drink after a hard day’s work even in a good hotel or restaurant? People do not buy liquor from restaurants and walk out, so it is important that we have clarity and the Excise department has a clarity too.We may approach the department if need be,” says Zorawar.

‘It will be shocking to be clubbed with thekas’

If nothing, the recent developments and several rumours around the Supreme Court order has caused some panic among restaurateurs in Cyber Hub and Sector 29, the popular nightlife spots in Gurgaon. They say that if the apex court’s order is not comprehended in the right way, it may cause a huge damage.” Says Inderjeet Banga, owner of Prankster in Sector 29, “There is a state of confusion as no one has clarity about what decision the Excise department will take and what will they understand of the court’s order. They need to understand that the profile of guests that we get is different from the ones at liquor vends on highways. If Excise decides to cancel our licenses it will have a huge impact on business, many people may lose their jobs. It will be more than unfair.”

Shivkaran Singh, owner of Circus in Cyber Hub, says that they are still trying to understand the court order and “figure out how can they fall under ‘vends’; there is no clarity as of now.” Some restaurateurs say that they have been unofficially told by some officials from the Excise department that the department has come up with a list of pubs, bars and restaurants that are within 500 metres of national and state highways. If that is true, that will be the worst thing to happen. That would mean that the court’s order is misinterpreted. Restaurants and hotels are the safest places where people can go with families, friends and drink, cancelling our liquor licenses won’t be right,” says Sahil Sanghi, co-owner of Molecule Air Bar. Randip Dhingra, owner of Twist in Cyber Hub, adds, “We are requesting for clarification that we are different from liquor vends and shops, the profile of guests that we cater to are different, this distinction needs to be highlighted. Clubbing a restaurant or a hotel with a theka (liquor vend) is just not right and should not happen. It is shocking to get clubbed with thekas.”

Will consult legal experts on this: Excise department
The Excise department officials told us that there is the lack of clarity regarding the implementation of the SC order and it is too early to jump to any conclusion. An Excise department official told us, “We will take advice from the legal experts and then they will tell us that whether the SC order is applicable for the restaurants and hotels or not. Besides, it’s not just Gurgaon, the decision will be taken by the Haryana government and will be the same everywhere.” The Excise department officials conducted a survey and the report will be submitted soon. Aruna Singh, deputy Excise and taxation commissioner, Gurgaon, told us, “We will comply with the order of the Supreme Court.”

Source: Times of India

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