Thiruvananthapuram: Bowing to pressure from various quarters, the Kerala government on Thursday decided that from now on Sundays will no longer be dry days and 418 bars that have not opened since the beginning of this fiscal would become beer and wine parlours, said Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.
Chandy told reporters that these changes have been made to ensure that the fundamentals of the liquor policy remain intact as the principled stand of the government is to achieve total prohibition in a phased manner.
"Reports submitted by the tourism and labour secretaries indicated that the tourism industry would be affected and the employees working in the closed down bars would have a tough time. The decision to make all Sundays as dry days was mine and I thought if it would become a dry day, the families would be very happy. But it has not gone down well, so it was lifted," said Chandy.
The decision to turn the 418 bars that have not opened since the beginning of this fiscal into wine and beer parlours was taken as more than 30,000 employees having direct and indirect employment would have lost their jobs.
The tourism industry was up in arms as numerous companies that had planned to conduct their meetings and conferences in Kerala decided to go elsewhere following the decision to make all Sundays dry days.
"The earlier decisions that no three and four-star hotels would be given license stands. Also every year from now on 10 per cent of the 383 state-owned retail liquor outlets will close down. Already the first batch of 39 has closed down. On Oct 2, 2024, total prohibition would be in force in Kerala," said Chandy.
He also pointed out that an expert committee would be set up to study the impact of the new liquor policy.
"In the cabinet meeting that took the decision today (Thursday), the Muslim League ministers expressed their dissent as they want total prohibition in one stroke," added Chandy.
This tweaked liquor policy has come despite state Congress president V.M. Sudheeran taking a rigid stand that there need not be any changes in the new liquor policy. Following huge pressure from the allies of the ruling front and from within the Congress party, Sudheeran`s decision was overruled at the UDF meeting early this week.