3,000 liquor licences not renewed in Goa; Parrikar assures of solution

Panaji: Even as Goa's Excise Department on Saturday did not renew the licences of over 3,000 liquor vends dotting the national highways, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar assured that efforts would be made to ensure that the livelihood of affected traders is not compromised.

At a meeting chaired by Parrikar and attended by Chief Secretary Dharmendra Sharma and top excise and finance department officials, a possibility of relocating liquor businesses from the close proximity of national highways to the interior areas was also discussed. 

"It is one of the alternatives. After discussions, a proper policy will be worked out for relocating affected businesses," sources said, adding that for now existing excise laws allow bar and liquor store owners to shift their unsold stock to new premises. 

The state government is also considering the legal option of filing a revision petition in regard to the Supreme Court's Friday order, which banned bars from close proximity of highways. 

"The option is always available. We will exercise it if necessary," sources said. 

Meanwhile, the state Excise Department on Saturday did not renew over 3,000 licences, which cover bars, liquor retailers and wholesalers, which fall within 500 metres of the National Highways, as per Friday's Supreme Court order. 

According to Excise Commissioner Menino D'Souza, the department's teams were implementing the order by visiting bars and liquor outlets which have been slotted for closure. 

Speaking to reporters after a meeting with Parrikar, lawyer for the Goa Liquor Traders Association Amit Palyekar said that an assurance has been given by the Chief Minister to resolve the issue with the least possible damage to the affected liquor traders. 

"Filing a revision petition is also an option before us, but we will do it in consultation with the state government," Palyekar said. 

The apex court, by its December 15, 2016 order, had banned the sale of liquor within 500 metres on either side of the national and state highways. A bench of Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar, Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice L. Nageswara Rao, however, relaxed the ban by reducing it to 220 metres in respect of municipal/local bodies with a population of 20,000 or less along the highways, while also exempting Sikkim and Meghalaya from the above restrictions. 

One of the most popular tourism destinations in the country, Goa is well known for its liberal liquor regime, where alcohol is taxed less as compared to other states. There are over 11,000 licensed liquor vendors in the state, including bar and restaurant licence holders and more than 3,000 such outlets are facing the axe following the apex court order.