The Supreme Court’s liquor ban along highways has adversely affected the business in Mumbai. Not only bars, hotels, and restaurants but small businesses like pan shops, lodging rooms, and cold drink sellers have also been hit the decision.
Merely two kilometers away from Mumbai’s Dahisar Toll Naka, hundreds of bars and hotels are touched by the outcome and a tense atmosphere is prevalent in the entire community. Clearly, the wine shop owners and hotel owners are miffed and are pushed to dismiss employees without any notice.
What is the Supreme Court’s decision?
On December 15, 2016, the Supreme Court had imposed a ban on the sale of liquor within 500 meters of highways across India after a petition by Harman Singh Sandhu. A wheelchair bound Sandhu wanted to make the roads safer and to avoid ‘Drink and Drive’ he had asked the Supreme Court for a ban on liquor near National Highways.
Later SC modified its decision where cities with a population of less than 20,000 are allowed to sell liquor but only 220 meters away from the state highways.
How is this decision affecting Mumbai?
Excise Minister Chandrashekhar Bawankule in the Assembly said that 15,699 out of 25,513 outlets with liquor licences, would be affected by this decision. Reportedly, Maharashtra will lose RS 7000 cr revenue annually. This is not just affecting liquor sellers but also employees who work there, as thousands of employees will lose their jobs because of alcohol ban near highways.
Dahisar Toll Naka is a stop-point for tourists and truck drivers who stay in the nearby lodges and hotels, because of which many bars, wine shops, and hotel owners earn profits as many of visitors are from outside Mumbai and stop by to spend their evenings or nights. Most of the bars start their business by 3 pm and end at midnight, at times illegally working till the morning. Many of bars have orchestra where they recruit bar girls to entertain the customers.
After the ban, the whole business will go under depression and many workers will have to hunt for other jobs. Surendra Shetty, Manager of Samadhan Restaurant said, “We have forty employees and since last two days there is a depreciation. We used to earn Rs. 60,000 and now it has come down to Rs. 15,000. Our business has been terribly affected and we have to remove employees as customers are not coming and we can’t pay a salary to them if there are no profits.”
Thousands of travelers pass through the Mumbai- Ahmedabad highway (NH 48) frequently and these liquor outlets are serving them for many years. A sudden ban has shocked many hoteliers. One of them said, “Drink and Drive is not good but government also needs to understand that many people work here, where will they go? I don’t want to go against the Supreme Court order but relocating the business is a tough job and there was a reason we situated near the highway.”
Not only liquor business but other businesses like pan shop sellers also expressed their grief. Shantilal Gupta who has set up his business outside a famous bar said, “I used to earn Rs. 5000 daily but now it has come to half. Not even half actually, yesterday it was just 1,500 rupees.”
How (and if) will this decision help to reduce drink driving accidents?
Millions of people die every year in road accidents. Not only are those who are drinking and driving involved in it but also the innocent pedestrians who are not under influence of alcohol. So, this ban will definitely help to prevent commuters from drinking and driving. There are lot of illegal businesses like prostitution and illegal dance bars under the name of orchestra which can be controlled at lodges and hotel attached to bars and wine shops.
Who is the gainer?
The government is keen on road safety and stopping people from consuming alcohol is definitely a winner as this ban will send the message that the authority is serious about future of the country where road safety is one of major responsibilities.
Who is the loser?
Owners of bars, wine shops, hotels and lodging rooms are the losers in this decision as they will suffer a huge loss they are suffering because of ban. Employees who are working at these places are going to lose their jobs and have to find alternative jobs or migrate to their villages where they come from.
This ban will affect liquor business and The Indian Hotels and Restaurants Association ( AHAR) is yet to issue a statement to the media. To tackle this situation bars and hotel owners will have to come together and file a petition against the decision.