Even as the incessant rain, water logging, and massive traffic snarls have been dampening the mood of residents of the city, here is finally some good news for partygoers in Bengaluru as well as the rest of the country. The Supreme Court on Wednesday, August 23, clarified that the highway liquor ban, which was announced on December 15, was applicable only to the vends on the roads connecting various cities.
It said that state and national highways that fall within city limits do not come under this ban. "The purpose of the directions contained in the order dated 15 December 2016 is to deal with the sale of liquor along and in proximity of highways properly understood, which provides connectivity between cities, towns and villages," the Times of India quoted an order by an SC bench, headed by Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar.
"The order does not prohibit licenced establishments within municipal areas. This clarification shall govern other municipal areas as well. We have considered it appropriate to issue this clarification to set at rest any ambiguity."
Following this order, excise officials in Mumbai said that they will start re-issuing licenses to various clubs and pubs in the city next week onwards and these places will be able to start operations post the Ganpati festival.
Meanwhile, this news also brings some cheer to Bengaluru, which has been seeing pubs and clubs downing shutters. On Tuesday, the Karnataka High Court had dismissed the bar owners' plea to denotify the national highway stretches and the excise officials had said that they could not renew licenses after the order.
"With the High Court also not agreeing, licenses of these pubs can't be renewed, unless they move out of a 500-meter radius. So, many are now approaching offices of their respective deputy commissioners for relocation," the Quint quoted a senior excise department official as saying.
While pub and bar owner did not have many hopes from the state government either, many of them had said that relocation isn't an easy task. "I can't keep my establishment in the hope that the government would do something for us," said a Brigade Road pub owner, on condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court's order is now being hailed by pub owners and Rahul Singh, founder and CEO of The Beer Cafe said: "We are vindicated with this order. The ambiguity which remained since 1st April comes to rest and we can restore the licenses for our establishments within the municipal limits which were really never in the spirit of what a highway does. Its come as an early Diwali for the hospitality sector and we thank the honorable bench for restoring lost jobs, tourism and revenues."
It looks like pub owners, as well as the party-lovers of the city, can finally heave a sigh of relief and raise a toast!