Freddy's cocktail lounge functioning out of Hotel Ekaa on Bengaluru’s Hosur Main Road has closed their liquor sales, for now.
Chennai’s popular pub, Q Bar in Hilton will not sell liquor on Saturday.
The bar in Cosmopolitan Club in Kerala’s Palakkad too has shut shop for the day.
Thousands of bars, pubs, liquor vending shops across the country are downing the shutters and are unsure when they would open next. They are all waiting for relief from the Supreme Court.
On Friday, the apex court ruled that the national ban on sale of liquor within a particular distance of National and State Highways will be upheld. The judgment says that these establishments cannot function after March 31, 2017. (Excise year ends on April 1 in most states).
SC also said that the ban extends to not just liquor vending shops, but bars and pubs too. In cities and large towns, these establishments cannot function if they are within 500 metres of a highway.
The court however reduced the 500-metre threshold to 220 metres in areas where the local population is less than 20,000.
The SC bench that heard petitions against its order from December 15, 2016 said that not extending the ban to restaurants, bars and pubs would defeat the purpose of curbing drunken driving.
Last December, the court asked all state governments to close down all liquor shops that function within a range of 500 metres from the edge of highways. States have also been asked to “cease and desist” from issuing excise licenses after March 31, reported IE.
While Meghalaya and Sikkim have been excluded from the order, establishments in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana also have a few more months to remain open. The excise year in Telangana ends on September 30, and in AP, it ends on June 30.
Nagesh Reddy, owner of 10 Downing Street in Chennai said, "We have not received a notice, so won't have to shut. But many pubs in Mount Road will have to, as it is a state highway. The 10 Downing Street franchise in Coimbatore will shut down. After the weekend, we will think of approaching the court for relief.
Associations in Bengaluru however said that many pubs and bars that have licenses valid till July 1 this year will remain open. "As of now it is just hearsay we haven't got any official word from any government department. But for those bars that renewed their licenses before December 15 2016, their license is valid till July 1 this year,” said Ashish Kothare, managing Committee member of National Restaurant Association of Idia.
Kumar (name changed) - who has been the manager at a leading pub in Chennai told TNM, “Bars in hotels like Grand Chola, Hyatt regency, Hilton, and lots of places on ECR and OMR will have to close as they come on the National Highway. Places on Mount Road will also have to shut.”
“Lots of people woke up today and read the paper and discovered the news. But no circular or order has come yet. Measuring will start and then they will be asked to close,” he added.
Freddy's Cocktail Lounge at Hosur Road in Bengaluru confirmed that their bar would remain shut. “We have closed the bar counter in view of the SC ruling and only the restaurant is functional from today,” said Jineesh, the manager.
"We had drafted the notice and kept it ready ahead of the SC hearing. Now that we have an extension, we will rework our liquor policy and start serving notices in June or July. We will meet the September 30 deadline set by the court," said M Santhosh Reddy from the Telangana State Beverages Corporation Ltd.
Q Bar, the rooftop pub at Hilton, has confirmed to TNM that they received a notice to close down following the Supreme Court order. Srikanth, the Beverage Manager of Q Bar, said that while the pub will remain closed on Saturday, they cannot comment on future course of action at the moment.
“The situation would be worse in places like Gurgaon where most pubs are near highways,” a manager of a pub in Chennai said.
365 A.S., the lounge at Hyatt Regency in Teynampet, has also received a notice, and while the hotel refused to comment on the issue, they did confirm that they will remain closed for the day.
A staff from Flying Elephant, Hyatt Chennai told TNM that the bar is shut on Saturday. When asked for more information, they refused to comment.
Pasha (The Park) was also not functioning on Saturday, the hotel staff confirmed.