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Highway liquor ban leaves Gurgaon restaurants, bar operators jittery


GURGAON: A Supreme Court order banning sale of liquor along national and state highways has left some restaurant and bar operators jittery, even as they await some clarity.

Haryana government officials may be interpreting the judgement to include eateries though many owners say the order is meant only for liquor shops and Gurgaon’s residents can rest assured their favourite watering holes won’t be affected.

“It is against liquor vends and not against bars and restaurants,” said Riyaaz Amlani, president of the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI). Amlani is also CEO of Impresario, the operator of dozens of restaurants pan-India, including the Social and Smoke House Deli.

The Supreme Court, on December 15, said “all states and Union Territories shall forthwith cease and desist from granting licences for sale of liquor along national and state highways.” Liquor licences that are currently valid won’t be renewed after March 31, 2017.

The ruling came in a case that sought to close liquor vends along highways to curb fatalities caused by drunken driving. The order covers highway stretches that fall within municipal corporation, city, town or local authority limits.

No liquor shop should be visible from a national or state highway. Neither should they be directly accessible from a highway or situated within 500 metres of the outer edge of a highway or a service lane alongside it. If the order includes bars and restaurants, several outlets in food and beverage destinations CyberHub and Sector 29 — both located close to National Highway 8 — will be badly hit.

There are about 70 restaurants in and around Sector 29 and more than 30 in CyberHub that serve liquor, according to restaurant listing website Zomato.

Amlani said NRAI, which has more than a lakh members, recently sought legal opinion on the order from a retired Supreme Court judge and a former high court judge and found that it is not applicable to bars and eateries.

“There are so many five star hotels all along highways,” Amlani said. “It has been interpreted wrongly. Bars and restaurants have nothing to do with the order. It is about shops where people buy liquor on the way.” Nonetheless, many restaurant and bar operators in Gurgaon have their fingers crossed as they meet Haryana government officials.

“Haryana has taken a somewhat self-detrimental (position) as they feel hotels and restaurants should be part of it (the order),” said Rahul Singh, founder of the Beer Café chain. “Haryana’s excise policy is expected in the next few weeks, so there is confusion for now.”

Amlani of NRAI said that while there are some concerns about the Haryana government’s interpretation of the order, their legal opinion is “crystal clear” that the ruling is in no way going to impact restaurants and bars.

Source: Economic Times

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