Goa tourism industry worried, liquor traders bank on CM’s assurance

Panaji: The now deemed illegal liquor outlets, located less than 500 metres from national highways in Goa have downed their shutters following the Supreme Court order, hopes of about 1,000 liquor outlet owners now hinge on an assurance given by Chief Minister Minister Manohar Parrikar to bail them out.

The travel and tourism industry in the state however, said that the ban would affect their business in Goa and that popular restaurants with liquor licences may well have to shut down.

Goa Liquor Traders Association President Dattaprasad Naik told reporters here that, while nearly 3,000 liquor outlets in the state, including retailers, wholesalers and bars, are currently affected by the ban, the state government was working out modalities to save about 1,000 outlets, because in many towns that the national highway passes through, had a population of less than 10,000.

“As per the SC decision, towns where population is less than 10,000, the restriction of 500 metres has been relaxed to 220 metres. The government has assured us that nearly 1,000 liquor outlets fall in this category,” Naik said.

Sources in the state Excise Department have also said that an exercise was on to identify the 1,000 odd outlets which fall beyond 220 metres from national highways.

On April 1, the Excise Department did not renew licences over 3,210 out of the 11,000 plus liquor outlets which fall within 500 metres of the national highways traversing through the state, as directed by the apex court in its ruling.

Despite the non-renewal of licence, according to Chief Secretary Dharmendra Sharma, liquor traders have been allowed time to re-locate and transfer existing stocks of alcohol, as per the provisions of the Goa Excise Duty Act.

Savio Messias, President of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa, which represents industry stakeholders told IANS, that while there was need to find a resolution to the crisis together, the implications of the apex court’s decision would mar the tourism industry in the state.

“It would hurt the industry, as many hotels would be affected. Besides many popular restaurants would have to shut down. Tourists would be going in circles finding bars,” he said.

Liquor in Goa is priced cheaper compared to several other states in India, thanks to a liberal excise regime.

Goa, should have been accorded relief on the lines of Meghalaya and Sikkim, which have been granted relief by the SC order.

“Being such a small state and a very popular tourist destination we deserved some relief… I don’t think there is much we can do, but the government now needs to find a solution,” Messias said.