Business owners walk a fine line in ingenious efforts to skirt supreme court ban on sale of alcohol within 500 metres of highways https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/25/alcohol-ruling-drives-indian-bar-goers-round-bends Locals say the maze appeared around December. Outside the Aishwarya Restrobar in north Paravoor – one of the few places you could get a drink in Kerala, a dry state – there had suddenly sprung up a series of winding grey walls, forcing patrons to walk extra metres to the bar. And that may have been the point. An Indian supreme court judgment delivered in December and enforced since 1 April has banned the sale of alcohol within 500 metres of India’s state and national highways. The sweeping nature of the liquor ban – no exceptions were made, even for India’s most renowned restaurants – has set off a flurry of schemes to help bars stay in business. In Rajasthan, hundreds of miles of formerly state highways have been reclassified as urban roads. Administrators have ordered the same in Mahrashtra, West Bengal and several other states and territories. Roads in Gurgaon, a hub for technology companies, malls and high-rises south of Delhi, have reportedly been barricaded, increasing the “motorable distance” between a major expressway and some pubs and hotels in the city. Nonetheless, at least 200 liquor licences, including those of 150 bars, have been rendered void by the decision. Efforts to skirt the court’s order are a showcase of what Indians call jugaad, their famous ingenuity in the face of legal or physical barriers. But bar owners and state officials are walking a fine line. Obviously skirting a supreme court order could invite scrutiny, and most insist their changes have nothing to do with the ban. Shiv Lahari Sharma, an engineer with the Rajasthan government, told the Times of India that the mass reclassification of roads in his state in April was a coincidence. “Our mandate is to construct and maintain roads,” he said. “It has nothing to do with the SC ruling on liquor shops.” In Gurgaon’s Cyber Hub business park, 34 bars and pubs are awaiting a ruling on whether they can remain open. The entrance to the campus was shifted in early April from one side, perilously close to the highway, to another more than 2km away. But this too was simply good timing, said Mukesh Yadav, a manager at the site. “It’s not to get around the ban,” he said. Instead the entrance was moved to comply with an underpass that happened to open the day the liquor ban came into effect. “For the past five years, the underpass has been under construction, so using the old entrance was a makeshift arrangement.” No such luck was had by India’s most acclaimed restaurant, Delhi’s Indian Accent, which this month scrapped its 80-brand wine menu to comply with the new rules. Not even the chocolate rum ball was spared. Speaking anonymously, a manager said revenue had fallen by 100,000 rupees (£1,210) per day and customers had cancelled bookings made months in advance. A spokeswoman for the restaurant said it was appealing to authorities to find another way of measuring the distance. Crisil, a business analytics firm, has estimated the ban will dent takings by up to 30% in premium hotels across 12 major Indian cities. Pune, in Maharashtra, would be hardest hit, with more than 70% of hotels in the city stripped of their liquor licences. The Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India has said the ban will cost the government up to 2tn rupees (£24bn) in excise. An appeal in March by a coalition of state governments failed to budge the supreme court, which insists the liquor ban will stem India’s “alarming” rate of road accidents, which kill around 146,000 people each year. Officially, drunk driving accounts for around 4.6% of those deaths, but the court contends the true rate is far higher. The four-year campaign that led to the ban was started by Harman Sidhu, a road safety campaigner who suffered spinal injuries in 1996 and now uses a wheelchair. He has been both lionised and abused for his role in the liquor ban and told India Times his own favourite watering holes had been affected. “I, too, am feeling the pinch,” he admitted. India’s supreme court is often accused of overreaching. In November, it mandated movie theatres to play the national anthem before screenings and insisted patrons “stand up to show respect”. But the liquor ban reflects growing alarm in the country that increasing incomes and urbanisation are sending alcohol consumption rates soaring. India’s constitution enshrines prohibition as an aspiration and around one-fifth of Indians live in states where alcohol is banned, even if still bootlegged frequently. The Tamil Nadu government began phasing out government liquor stores last year after anti-alcohol protests turned violent. In Kerala, it is permitted only in five-star hotels. Visitors to Gujarat, where alcohol has been banned since 1960, can apply for an official drinking licence. In April 2015, citing the concerns of women’s groups about domestic violence, the Bihar government outlawed alcohol completely. For now, drinkers across the country are hanging on the results of measurements by excise officials – including those who manage to make it to the doors of the Aishwarya Restrobar. Its new entrance notwithstanding, the establishment was stripped of its licence on 31 March. The owners have appealed to state authorities to reconsider. --- that death toll statistic is positively frightening but this seems a complete case of overreach, what with them imposing a hard-crackdown on something their own official figures state has "only" a 4% effect on. wtf @beer @iris @raj @gypsy_tears @boothjorden @ozone @lexo @Sheolite @Abrams @Drummerman what do you guys think? complete overkill or a decent measure considering the high death numbers?