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Three ahatas shut for serving food, violating norms



Gurugram Excise officials sealed three ahatas along the Golf Course Extension Road, Old Delhi-Gurugram Road and in Cyber City that were being run in violations of norms.

The action comes after members of the National Restaurants Association of India (NRAI) on Thursday met Dushyant Chautala, the deputy chief minister, who also holds the portfolios of excise and taxation, seeking action against ahatas that are flouting norms.

“We have taken steps and some of them have been shut. We have asked those running these places to apply for restaurant licences if they want to run a full-fledged business. As per the excise policy, we will streamline this issue and make sure there are no problems caused by them. We have also decided to take action against those operating beyond permissible time limit and playing loud music close to residential areas,” Chautala said.

Ahatas, located near liquor vends, are authorised places for the public to consume liquor. There are 72 ahatas in Gurugram that have turned into popular haunts for residents on weekends. There were only eight ahatas in 2000s, but their popularity increased so much that they have become the norm in the city. Gurugram is the highest contributor to the liquor revenue in the state, with a share of ₹1,800 crore of the total ₹6,500 crore.

HC Dahiya, deputy commissioner of excise and taxation, Gurugram (west), said three teams, of seven members each for the east and west zone, have been formed to check violations. “We have taken strict action against the violators and given a strict warning to others. The liquor licences will be cancelled if anyone is found flouting the rules,” he said.

Pub and bar owners, who pay for liquor licences, raised concerns over the operation of ahatas, which are allegedly operating on the lines of full-fledged restaurants, causing a setback for licensed restaurants.

They said that there needs to be strict enforcement before the new excise policy comes into force on April 1.

NRAI trustee, Rahul Singh, said that Haryana state excise has the provision for an authorised drinking place to prevent rowdy and drunken behaviour in public. “It is a paradox, as the lack of effective policing is being used as a reason to have ahatas for alcoholic consumption near a vend. When compliant and licensed places in the form of restaurants exist, why should roadside, open places on green belts be allowed for unabated consumption of liquor? Shouldn’t the entire country should have these then? Why is that neighbouring Rajasthan, UP and Delhi don’t have ahatas. Are their police or enforcement to prevent rowdy or drinking in cars better than the state of Haryana?” he said.

Lalit Ahlawat, director of Soi Hospitality and member of pub and bar association, Gurugram, said that ahatas are being run on the proxy by non-licensed holders as full-fledged restrobars with full kitchens, air conditioning, live entertainment and dancing. “They are not compliant with GST, FSSAI, fire safety or pollution norms as restaurants should be. They also do not contribute to the state revenue, in the form of municipal taxes. This has put both the restaurateurs and the state government at a disadvantage because of an uneven playing field in conducting a compliant and legit business,” he said.

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