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Fate of 513 liquor outlets hangs in balance

Panaji: Although 513 liquor outlets and bars in the state received permission to reopen as a final relief from the Supreme Court highway liquor ban, the clearance to the outlets from the excise department continues to hang in balance.

Sources said that renewal of licences  of the 513 outlets has been  kept on hold as the outlets have contravened the provisions of the Goa Excise Duty Act and Rules 1964 by committing some or the other illegalities.

These illegalities were noticed by the excise department over the two year period when the outlets remained closed due to the highway liquor ban order.

Excise commissioner Amit Satija said the department is merely observing the government order which, “asked us to renew licences but subject to the condition that the licensee did not commit any illegality.”

The department has commenced the process of renewing licences but needs to verify with the police on illegalities since the outlets have remained  closed from April 2017,  Satija explained.

On the other hand, Goa Bar and Restaurant Owners Association president Michal Carrasco said that denying licences to bars that  committed illegalities is unfair as the owners have already paid the fine for the illegalities.

“Penalising bar owners for previous misdemeanours that have   already been settled is unjust,” he claimed.

Carrasco said the government issued the notification on June 14 giving  relief to the remaining liquor outlets but unfortunately worded the notification ambiguously.

“Thanks to the rider that the notification contains many liquor licence, renewals are stuck,” he said.

The illegalities relate to keeping the outlets open beyond permissible hours, transport of liquor, flouting the code of conduct during the Lok Sabha elections, etc.  

On April 1 2017, the Supreme Court banned liquor outlets locating along 500-metre distance from national and state highways.

The SC liquor ban shut down about 3200 liquor outlets, bars and restaurants in the state.

However, the order was subsequently relaxed, and after  three-four relaxations only 513 outlets in the state remained shut.

On June 14 2019, the government gave relief to the remaining 513 outlets by categorising villages as ‘sufficiently developed’, ‘partly developed’ and ‘not sufficiently developed’.

All the liquor licence holders who were affected by the SC order received permission to reopen. However, with the excise department deciding to go by book the renewal of licenses has been hanging in balance.

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