A single-judge bench of the Kerala High Court Thursday allowed 62 heritage, four- and five-star hotel bars to operate from Thursday.
All two- and three-star hotel bars have to be closed. Now, liquor will be only available in eight heritage and 33 four-star hotels besides 21 five-star hotels in the state.
Justice K. Surendra Mohan Thursday gave the verdict on plea of the Kerala Bar Hotel Owners Association, which had sought permission to operate their bars.
The new liquor policy of the Kerala government, aiming to achieve complete prohibition in the state in a phased manner, provided that liquor would be served only in 21 five-star hotel bars, and all other bars in the state should be closed down from Sep 12.
The association moved the Kerala High Court, which Sep 3 upheld the government's decision. The association sought relief from the Supreme Court, which sent it back to the high court.
Thursday's verdict has come as a partial relief to the government. The association has announced that it would go in appeal against the verdict while state Excise Minister K. Babu said this verdict is no setback to the State government's liquor policy.
"Now we will study the verdict and decide the next course of action," said Babu.
State Congress president V.M. Sudheeran welcomed the verdict and said it has upheld the liquor policy of the state government.
"Now we will see what we can do to bring the four-star hotel bars also out of the present list and for that we will seek legal recourse," said Sudheeran.
Employees working in a three-star hotel in the state capital said this is a sad day for them.
"If the media reports on the verdict are to be believed, we are so sad and we are left with no job. I have been in this industry for the past quarter of a century as a waiter in a bar restaurant," said a waiter.
Meanwhile, the state government has already begun talks with trade union leaders for devising a rehabilitation package for the registered employees working in the bars that will now be closed.
"One round of talks is over and very soon we will have a second round. We have asked the stake holders to come out with their suggestions," said Babu.