Beer bars now closer to schools
By: Urvashi Seth
Educationists angry after minimum distance between schools and bars is reduced to 50 metres from the current 75 metres
The Maharashtra State Excise Department has once again proved that bureaucrats are not in touch with reality.
Accepting a request made by bar owners, the department has decided to reduce the distance limit between bars and educational institutions or religious shrines from 75 metres to 50 metres, without considering the effect it will have on young minds.
The rule will come into force later this month. Confirming this, a senior official from the state excise ministry said, "We are just waiting for the official letter."
Let's Drink To That: More than 250 permit rooms were forced to shut down due to the 75 m distance rule. The new decision has made tipplers happy.
Predictably, educationists are not too happy with the move. Rohan Bhatt, principal, Children's Academy School in Kandivli, said, "The distance limit should've been increas-ed, not reduced.
The new limit of 50 metres might spoil college students and turn them into anti-social elements."
Said B P Sahni, the director of Ramnath Payde College of Hospitality in Kurla, "These rules are of no use. There was another rule, which said tobacco shops could not be set up within 100 metres of any educational institute.
However, for some time now, there has been a cigarette shop near my college, almost adjacent to a BMC office. Rules don't really matter, as they are always flouted."
A boon for all
But naturally, bar owners welcome the decision.
Prakash Shetty, member, Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association, said, "In the last couple of years, more than 250 permit rooms were forced to shut down because of this rule.
This decision is a boon for all of them. One can expect more bars to mushroom in the city in the coming months."
Vikram Shetty, owner, Shri Laxmisha restaurant at Masjid, had lost his licence in 2003 when a mosque nearby made some structural changes and the distance between his shop and the mosque reduced to 60 metres.
"I suffered a huge financial loss when my licence was revoked," recalled Vikram. "I am very happy that I will now be able to start my restaurant again."
"It's a good move. Now, I won't have to go too far for a peg of whisky," said Anil Bhagwat, a BPO employee. Agreed Mansi Rao, a PR executive, "Now we won't have to shell much money on travelling to a bar."
Did you know?
The old 75-metre rule does not apply to liquor shops and they can sell their goods 50 metres away from schools and shrines
The approximate number of beer bars in Mumbai
Formulated in 1953, bars and permit rooms had to maintain a distance of 75 m from educational and religious institutions.
In 2004, the then police commissioner A N Roy and his force had raided beer bars in the city.
Fight for Rights of Bar Association, an organisation of bars and liquor shop owners, filed a petition with the High Court claiming that the raids had affected their business.
Roy told the court in reply that the raids had been conducted after receiving repeated complaints from the public about them. He also said that many of the bar girls detained were minors.
In 2007, social activist Anna Hazare (above) criticised the Maharashtra government's decision to provide beer bar licences at cheaper rates in rural areas, saying it would "encourage alcoholism" among people.
Expressing serious concern over the government's decision, he feared that this would lead to a rise in alcoholism among the rural populace and disturb family life.