The Left Democratic Front (LDF) government in Kerala has taken an open stand regarding the reopening of bars ever since it came to power in 2016.
In June this year, the government had reversed the liquor policy of the previous United Democratic Front (UDF) government, paving the way for reopening of bars in hotels classified as three star and above.
In December last year, the Supreme Court had directed all liquor shops functioning within 500 meters of highways, to shut down from April 1.
However, the government was keen to bypass the order, and speculations were rife that the government would denotify the highways to retain the bars.
It has now been confirmed that the government plans to denotify 4,342 km of state highways and rechristen them as major district roads, to ensure that bar and pubs remain open, Times of India reported.
The CPI (M) and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan have approved the idea, and the cabinet is expected to consider a proposal in its next meeting on August 23.
The Excise Department had reportedly favoured denotifying the state highways. However, the Public Works Department took a stand that the matter should be a collective decision of the cabinet, the TOI report states.
The data with the Excise Department shows that 479 bars and liquor vendors have remained closed since April 1 this year after the Supreme Courtâ€™s ban came into being.
The department assessed that there was a revenue loss of Rs 3 crore each day, which would amount to Rs 1,000 crore a year. The exchequer would lose one-tenth of its revenue from liquor sale if the bars remained closed. Last year, the state earned Rs 10,500 crore from liquor sales.
Once the proposal is cleared by the cabinet, the government will have to amend the Kerala Highway Protection Act 1999 that came to force on January 20, 2000, the TOI report adds.