Kerala's liquor outlets will remain closed on Independence Day

Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala State Beverages Corporation (BEVCO) on Saturday backtracked on an earlier order which permitted liquor outlets to remain open on Independence Day.

The order, part of an effort to reduce crowding outside liquor outlets in the run-up to Onam, was withdrawn in keeping with the sanctity of the day commemorating the independence of India.

Meanwhile, BEVCO has announced a slew of measures in wake of the Kerala High Court voicing its concern over the non-implementation of COVID-19 guidelines at liquor stores.

A large number of people are often seen waiting in long queues for hours on end to buy alcohol. They are not maintaining social distance, the Court had observed.

On Thursday, BEVCO revised the closing timing of its liquor outlets from 7 pm to 8 pm.

Bars and BEVCO outlets were also allowed to open on Saturdays.

Earlier, the Excise Commissionerate had suggested BEVCO to increase the number of counters in retail outlets to curb the queues.

It had also suggested that shops be re-allocated, if necessary, to prevent long queues of customers on roads and outside shopping centres.

Onam is a time when BEVCO makes the most sales.

In 2019, tipplers in Kerala guzzled liquor worth a record Rs 487 crore sold entirely through state-run outlets.

According to figures posted by BEVCO, the sale of liquor through its outlets netted Rs 487 crore during the Onam week, an increase of Rs 30 crore compared to 2018.

In 2019-20 alone, Kerala posted record liquor sales of Rs 14,700 crore.

While the pandemic dented these figures in 2020-21, Kerala still posted sales of Rs 10,340 crore despite the lockdown months when bars and BEVCO outlets were shut.

In the last five years, the sale of liquor was to the tune of Rs 65,000 crore. This is almost equal to Kerala's annual revenue.

Despite around 200 per cent tax on liquor, Kerala tops the country in its consumption of alcohol.

Only the state government agency BEVCO is authorised for wholesale and retail sales of alcohol, including beer and wine.

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