In a meeting of top-level officials chaired by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Thursday, it was decided that bars are not to be reopened in the state for now. Hundreds of bars, including beer and wine parlours across the state, have been shut since the COVID-19-induced lockdown started.
While the Excise Department was keen to open bars, the CM said that with the rising COVID-19 cases, it would not be prudent to open up the businesses yet. There are about 596 bars and 350 beer and wine parlours in the public and private sectors in the state.
Bars and beverages outlets in the state were shut from March 23 owing to the lockdown. However, in May, the government resumed liquor sale through the state-run beverage outlets and had also allowed over-the-counter sale of liquor from bars. A special mobile application â€˜BevQâ€™ was introduced to regulate crowds, enabling people to maintain virtual queues.
According to reports, after dine-in services in restaurants were allowed, bar owners in the state approached the government to take measures to reopen their establishments. However, this was reportedly not well-received by many officials in the meeting with the CM, including Health Department and Police officials. Meanwhile, over-the-counter sales of liquor in bars will continue.
According to a Kerala Kaumudi report, Excise Minister TP Ramakrishnan had submitted a file to the Chief Minister stating that reopening bars while following strict regulations can be considered. But the prevailing COVID-19 situation in the state has shunned the recommendation. Kerala is the only south Indian state where bars are still shut. States like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Delhi have re-opened bars.
Reports also state that, despite the lockdown and bars being shut, Kerala recorded Rs 520 crore worth of sales in liquor during the Onam season. Reportedly, this is Rs 33 crore higher than last yearâ€™s sale revenue during Onam.
(With inputs from IANS)