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One month on: It’s neither their way nor the ‘highway’


For a month now, pubs and bars in otherwise busy areas like MG Road, Church Street, Brigade Road and parts of Indiranagar and Koramangala have worn a deserted look. This followed the Supreme Courtorder that banned liquor shops within 500 metres on either side of national and state highways. Soon after, the SC said that roads within the city can be denotified as national highways, and on July 11, it dismissed a petition challenging the Chandigarh administration’s decision to denotify national and state highways and convert them to district roads, paving the way for other states exploring means to get around the ban. Despite this, the situation in Karnataka is still grim. We had reported on July 2, 2017 that many establishments were not only worried about loss of revenue, but also the loss of labour as a result of the inevitable dip in business. And though most restaurateurs seemed upbeat about the possibility of a quick resolution back then, the mood has changed.

“Things have gone from bad to worse. We had hopes of the issue being resolved quickly. Many of us even submitted a petition to the chief minister, who said that he will take care of it. But nothing has happened. It’s frustrating, as there is no news of any progress. The excise department keeps saying that something will happen in the next week or over the weekend, but no one seems to care. Close to 700 establishments in the city are hit, but there is no sense of urgency, which one would expect,” says Dilip Nair, director of operations, House of Commons.

When it comes to retaining staff, Dilip says that it has become a matter of the benevolence of the entrepreneur, who has been paying salary from his own pocket. “Since the past month we have been selling only food and soft drinks at the Brigade Road venue and our revenue has reduced by 90%. Regardless of how well the business does, we have certain monthly expenses that have to be met, such as rent and salary. We haven’t let go of any staff yet and are not looking at new venues, all because we are taking what the CM has promised (that the issue will be resolved) at face value,” he says.

Even venues that are not primarily watering holes are bearing the brunt. Amith, operations manager, blue FROG, says, “Even though music is our main focus and alcohol is only ancillary, business has still taken a hit due to the ban. This was expected, as liquor is part of the entire experience at the venue.”

While the focus is on food at Cafe Felix, the restaurant and bar has also been hit since the ban. “The liquor ban has affected us, since we operate a restaurant as well as a terrace bar. While food is our main focus, alcohol sales are important for the terrace bar. We’ve seen 50% dip in sales over the last month,” says owner Rishad Nathan.


The situation is so grim that the moment you enter a pub in the CBD, the first thing you are told, even without asking anything, is a dry, ‘We don’t serve alcohol here’. Nelson (name changed), manager of a once-happening pub on Church Street, says, “We are very close to shutting shop and vacating the premises. How can you expect businesses modeled on alcohol to survive if they ban it altogether? That too in a prime location like Church Street, where rentals are sky high. We’ve had to let go of most of our staff. Early last month, people who weren’t aware of the ban used to visit and end up eating here on that pretext. But now, everyone knows about it, so no one even makes plans to visit this part of town.”



Riyaaz Amlani, president, National Restaurant Association of India, says that the issues could be easily resolved, but the government just does not seem to be interested in doing anything about it. “Staff is being laid off every day and business has been hit hard, and all because the state government is hesitant to carry out the clerical job of denotifying roads running through the city as highways. It is a simple matter for the government. We are now going to approach the court and let it direct the government to act,” he says.

Source: Times of India

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