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SC liquor ban to dampen hotels’ New Year plans


The Supreme Court ruling asking state governments not to issue new liquor licences to establishments within 500 metres of the national and state highways across the country has severely impacted top hotels in Maharashtra, jeopardizing their New Year plans.

The Maharashtra excise department, taking a cue from the Supreme Court ruling earlier this month, has informed hoteliers that they will not be issued one-day liquor licence if they are within 500-metre of the highway, affecting hotels like the Hyatt Regency, Orchid, Sahara Star, forcing them to cancel their New Year events.

“We are just following the orders of the Supreme Court,” said Maharashtra Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar when asked for his views.

Hoteliers said that while they have licences to serve liquor inside the restaurant, they need a separate licence to conduct an event outside of it with liquor on the menu.

“The licence we have to serve liquor is limited only to the restaurant. If we have to serve liquor for someone holding an event on the rooftop or the ball room, then you need a one-day liquor licence. This is now being denied by the excise department,” said an employee of a hotel who did not want to be identified.

Following the notice, hotels and event organisers have gone into a tizzy, staring at massive losses running into possible crores. “I have three cancellations in three top hotels in Mumbai suburbs today. A hotel earns at least Rs 75 lakh to a crore from an event — the cancellation means huge losses for everybody,” said Tejan Botadra, an event organiser.

“This will not just impact the New Year celebrations, but events and programmes through the year. Imagine in a city like Mumbai you can’t hold a banquet any more if liquor is involved unless it is being held in the restaurant,” he said.

A hotelier also explained that going by the excise department logic, the current licence for serving liquor in restaurants won’t be renewed after its annual expiry, as the SC order states that licences should not be renewed for establishments within 500 metres of highways.

Hoteliers, however, argued that the SC order is being misinterpreted by politicians. “Hotels are being harassed and denied licences for yearend celebrations. The Westin’s permit – in Goregaon – was rejected. Even hotels in destinations such as Lonavala and Mahabaleshwar are being denied licenses on the grounds that they are near the state highway. It is hard to make last-minute cancellations and refunds and cancellations draw a lot of flak,” said Kamlesh Barot, past president of Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India.

Riyaz Amlani, president, National Restaurant Association of India, said the excise department didn’t understand the spirit of the SC order. “We feel that the excise department is taking a strict view.”

Source: Economic Times

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