Liquor ban: With few places to relocate, Bengaluru bar owners may have to shut shop

With no other way out, pub owners in Bengaluru’s central business are struggling to relocate as there are rules against setting up bars near hospitals, temples and in residential areas.
Liquor ban: With few places to relocate, Bengaluru bar owners may have to shut shop
Liquor ban: With few places to relocate, Bengaluru bar owners may have to shut shop
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After the Karnataka High Court agreed with the centre and rejected the bar owners’ plea to de-notify the national highways running through the city, many retail liquor shops and bars are now faced with the consequences — having to move away from existing locations.

Ashish Kothare, a member of the Pub Owners’ Association, said that there is no scope for appealing to the Supreme Court, as the Chief Justice of India, in his judgement on the denotification case regarding the Punjab government had said that no petitions from individual bar owners would be accepted.

According to the data provided by the Karnataka Excise Department, there are 2,900 pubs located on highways in the state and 790 in cities across Karnataka.

Of the 2,900 outlets, 710 are located in Bengaluru’s central business district, said Joint Commissioner of Excise, Rajendra Prasad.

“Since the pubs have shut down in MG Road and Brigade Road, the footfalls in the area have dropped gradually, and now we have observed a 40% drop in people who visit MG Road and Brigade Road on weekdays. The footfall is better on weekends but it does not make a considerable difference. The bustling feel of the pub-centre is not there anymore,” said Suhail, President of the Brigade Road Shop Owners’ Association.

Suhail said that the members of the association are mulling over “an extraordinary idea” to attract people to the city’s busiest area.

“The pubs drew in so many people and it was good business for the shop owners as well. Despite the traffic, a lot of people came here because of the old bars in the area, and because Brigade Road was a major shopping hub. But with the bars all gone, we too are experiencing a drop in income, as many people are not visiting these areas anymore. People are now navigating towards places that have bars,” Suhail added.

However, Rajendra Prasad said that the relocation is happening in Kodagu, Hassan and Hassan districts. “We have received many relocation applications from these areas. Those seeking relocation must apply to the deputy commissioner of the area. They can shift as soon as they obtain the permit.

The excise official said that bars in the Bengaluru urban district are finding it very difficult to relocate. “Pubs need at least 1,500 sq ft space. People do not want bars in residential areas, and those in Indiranagar have already started protesting since they feel the bars in that area will get more crowded and lead to more disturbance. Shifting has been possible only for permit rooms, retail liquor shops and bars in rural areas,” said Govindraj Hegde of the Karnataka Wine Merchants’ Association.

Apart from Pecos, which is one of the oldest pubs in the city, no other old-time bar has planned to relocate. Pecos is now relocating to Indiranagar.

“It is a disaster. There is no scope to relocate as there are rules against setting up bars in residential areas, near hospitals and temples. Not all the bars can relocate. We have gone back to the Stone Age. Besides, the government does not want to come across as pro-liquor lobby in the election year. MG Road and Brigade Road will not be the same anymore without the bars,” said Ashok Sadhwani, member of the Bengaluru Pub Owners’ Association.

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