Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy
The Andhra Pradesh government has cancelled the existing licenses of all the 798 bars in the state, and introduced a new policy with a hike in obtaining a fresh bar license, The Indian Express has reported.
The move comes in the wake of the Jagan Mohan Reddy-led government reducing the number of liquor shops in the state.
Deputy Chief Minister (Excise) K Narayana Swamy told the newspaper that the step is in line with the YSR Congress government’s commitment to implement total prohibition next year.
The new policy, which is set to come into effect from January 1 next year and remain in force for at least two years, only 479 bars will get new licenses. The newspaper reported that the application fee for 3-star and above hotels has been increased from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 1.45 crore, recording a hike of over ten-fold. In addition, the fee will be increased by 10 percent after one year.
Meanwhile, the fee has been hiked from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh for the other bars.
Swamy told the newspaper that the new policy for obtaining bar licenses is aimed at reducing the number of bars in the state by 40 percent. On October 1, the state government had introduced a policy which led to the number of liquor shops in the state reducing from 4,380 to 3,500. The AP State Beverages Corporation had taken over these 3500 shops.
“These are steps towards implementing total prohibition in the state as Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy promised in his election campaign. It is not a sudden decision, we had announced it earlier,’’ Swamy said.
Asserting that the aim of the state government is to reduce alcohol consumption in the state, Swamy said, “We will make it very, very expensive for people to consume liquor in bars, so they will stop visiting. Our aim is to close all bars in the state.’’
Besides, the government has added more restrictions on bars, such as procuring liquor only worth Rs 1.50 crore every month, and shutting down at 10 pm.
Liquor shops in Andhra Pradesh operate between 10 am and 9 pm. The AP Beverages Corporation has closed the drinking rooms attached to liquor shops.
Meanwhile, the AP Wine and Liquor Dealers Association said it would challenge the government’s decision in the High Court.
Calling the decision “arbitrary”, a member of the association told the publication, “Not only will 319 bar owners lose their business but hundreds of workers employed by these bars will become unemployed. The new policy also makes running a bar very expensive. The increased levy on liquor served in bars makes consumption much more expensive… We will challenge it in court.”