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NRAI General Secretary Urges Gurgaon Restaurants Not to Panic Before Supreme Court’s Clarifications on Feb. 17


WHEN the Supreme Court banned the sale of alcohol via retail vends operating on national and state highways, little did hotels and restaurants located within 500 metres from these arterial roads realise that the glare of scrutiny will be on them. Gurgaon restaurateurs are a particularly worried lot, for the local excise office is believed to have communicated to them that they too come within the purview of the order.

Millennium City has 116 standalone restaurants with excise licences close to National Highway 48 (formerly NH8) and together they notch up an annual turnover of Rs 1,200 crore. A number of five-star hotels have also sprung up along the way in the past decade and half. If their excise licences are revoked on the basis of the Supreme Court order (Haryana’s present government, in the best of circumstances, is not favourably disposed towards alcohol) and they are forced to stop serving liquor, they will lose an estimated 45 per cent of their business, which in turn will lead to a serious loss of revenue for the state.

In Maharashtra, as a very worried hotel manager in Nashik informed me recently, the state excise department has cautioned as many as 50,000 hotels and restaurants operating along national and state highways that they may lose their excise licences (including day licences) after March 31. At the centre of this confusion is legalese. Did the honourable court ban the sale of liquor via retail vends only or did it also ban the service of liquor in hotels and restaurants along the highways? Additionally, how does one define the distance ‘500 metres’ from a highway?

As many as six governments, obviously worried about the financial implications of the order, have filed special leave petitions (SLPs) at the Supreme Court seeking clarifications. The court is expected to clarify on the matters raised in these petitions on February 17. Rahul Singh, who should be a worried man because his Beer Cafe restaurants operates in 12 states, asked me to hold my horses till February 17. He was speaking in his capacity as General Secretary of the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI). Rubbishing speculative media stories, and wringing his hands about officials who are acting in undue haste, he said: “Let the Supreme Court have the final word on the subject.”

Source: indianrestaurantspy

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