Large number of bars, pubs in Chandigarh to close down as SC refuses to relax highway ban

Chandigarh: In a blow to the hospitality and tourism industry in the city, a major part of the city, including five-star hotels — the JW Marriott in Sector 35 and Taj Hotel in Sector 17 — will go dry from Saturday. Restaurants, hotels, clubs, bars, discotheques, pubs and lounges in several sectors won’t be permitted to sell liquor.
The latest development comes in the wake of the Supreme Court verdict on Friday, reiterating its stand of December 15, 2016, when it had originally banned the sale and serving of liquor within 500 meters of national and state highways to check deaths due to drunken driving.
In Chandigarh, the worst-hit business will be those located on the Madhya Marg in Sectors 26 and 7 and on the national highway passing through Sectors 35 and 43. About half of the Sector 17 – that is the area closer to the Madhya Marg — also won’t be allowed to sell liquor.
Inner markets of sectors are likely to be out of the barred zone, hence permitted to sell liquor.
In Panchkula, at least four bars will go dry.
Prominent survivors
CITCO-run hotels — the Mountview and the Shivalikview — and others such as The Lalit, Hyatt Regency, Aroma and the Piccadily in Sector 22 are among the prominent ‘survivors’. The Chandigarh Club, Chandigarh Golf Club and Lake Club will also be allowed to sell liquor.
Official sources said the administration won’t have to do much paper work to ensure compliance of the SC orders, as the licences to sell liquor expire on March 31, anyway. These have to be renewed on April 1. So, those falling within the barred zone won’t be issued new licences.
“Action will be taken against anyone found selling liquor illegally,” said UT home secretary-cum-excise and taxation secretary Anurag Agarwal.
“The industry will be hit and commercial interests of some people will be hurt. These are the orders of the SC and we have to ensure compliance,” he said.
The owners of affected outlets are shocked. They believe their business will be severely hit as they won’t be allowed to sell booze. “Very few people especially youngsters will come if we don’t serve drinks,” said a restaurateur.
“We have to respect the verdict of the Supreme Court. It will affect the industry, but there are positives, like women will feel safer at nights,” says Sanjay Makroo, general manager, The Taj Hotel, Sector 17, Chandigarh.
Initially, the whole of city was affected by the SC verdict as all major roads were called ‘state highways’. However, the administration changed their name to district roads. So, many of those selling liquor were able to wriggle out of the debarred zone, after the Punjab and Haryana HC upheld the administration’s move.
Officials unclear on marriage palaces
Most marriage palaces in the tricity are on the Zirakpur and Panchkula sides and fall on the national highway, but officials say they aren’t clear as yet on their status.

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