No New Year cheer for many bars in State

Come January, the State will have fewer bars. The State government is preparing a new bar policy as part of its endeavour to implement prohibition in a phased manner, one of the major poll promises made by Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy.

As of now, there are 840 bars across the State and the government plans to close down about 420 in the next one and a half months. Surprisingly, the government revenue is “unlikely to be affected” by the tweaking of the policy. This is because the government plans 100 % increase in bar licence fee. Last year, the income from licence fee was ₹2,032 crore.

Officials on the job

Following Chief Minister Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy’s directions to close down half of the bars from January 1, officials are working out the modalities and framing guidelines. The draft policy will be placed before the Cabinet which will take a decision on the key issues such as issue of licences and selection of bar operators. At present, there are 495 bars under limits of various municipal corporations, 297 in municipalities. There are 35 bars in nagar panchayats and 13 in tourist places. The bars did a business of ₹ 2,587 crore last year, sources say.

According to information, the previous government implemented the bar policy for 2017-2022. It announced the policy through GO 235 in 2017 and announced the Andhra Pradesh Excise (Grant of License of Selling by Bar and Conditions of Licence) Rules, 2017. The government fixed the licence fee for bars on the basis of population. The government collected ₹ 12.1 lakh a bar if the population on the town was less than 50,000; the fee was ₹ 24.2 lakh if the population was between 50,000 and 5 lakh and ₹36.3 lakh if the population was over 5 lakh. As there will not be much change in population, which was taken as the basis for issuing licences, the income through licence fee will be unaffected, say the sources. When contacted, Excise Commissioner M. M. Nayak said that the policy was still being framed. The government had to take a decision on the licence fee and other aspects.

The government would close down bars if people in the neighbourhood raised objections, he adds. There were 4,380 liquor shops when the YSRCP came to power. The government closed down 880 shops, which is 20 % of the total number of shops.