India. Excise department to fix working hours for beer and wine parlours in Kerala

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Though subsequent governments have initiated no curbs in issuing licence for beer-wine parlours in the state, there is no rule to regulate the working hours of beer and wine parlours. This would mean that under existing rules, beer and wine parlours can technically function 24 hours a day.

The excise department has initiated proceedings for plugging this major loophole in the existing foreign liquor rules.The excise department has requested the government to fix the working hours of beer and wine parlours, the numbers of which have increased substantially after the previous UDF government closed down over 400 bars. The excise department’s proposal is pending before the government.

According to the rule 28 of the foreign liquor rules, bar hotels (FL-3 licences) can operate only from 9.30am to 10pm. The rule at the same time gives some more leverage to the beverages corporation outlets (FL-1) as these are allowed to be opened from 9am to 11pm. But, the rules do not mention the time limit for beer and wine (FL-11) shops. The excise deputy commissioners are empowered to fix the working hours of FL-1shops in each area, subject to the condition that the working hours do not exceed 12 hours a day. The deputy commissioners have also been given powers to relax the time schedules during fairs and festivals.Despite this concession given to the FL-1shops, Bevco outlets in the state are open for 11 hours, from 10 am to 9 pm. But even here, there is no mention of regulation of working hours of beer or wine parlours by deputy commissioners.

At present, the department has allowed them to function by following bar timings.

But, it won’t stand legal scrutiny if someone challenges the enforcement of working hours in court.