Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala State Beverages Corporation (BEVCO) reversed an earlier order that allowed liquor outlets to remain open on Independence Day on Saturday.
The order, which was part of an effort to reduce crowding outside liquor stores in the run-up to Onam, was withdrawn to respect the sanctity of the day commemorating India’s independence.
Meanwhile, in response to the Kerala High Court’s concern about the non-implementation of COVID-19 guidelines at liquor stores, BEVCO has announced a slew of measures.
A large number of people are frequently seen standing in long lines for hours on end to purchase alcohol. The Court observed that they are not maintaining social distance.
BEVCO changed the closing time of its liquor stores from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday.
Saturdays were also allowed for the opening of bars and BEVCO outlets.
Previously, the Excise Commissionerate suggested that BEVCO increase the number of counters in retail outlets to reduce queues.
It also suggested that shops be re-allocated if necessary in order to avoid long lines of customers on roads and outside shopping malls.
BEVCO makes the most sales during Onam.
Tipplers in Kerala drank liquor worth a record Rs 487 crore in 2019, sold entirely through state-run outlets.
According to BEVCO figures, the sale of liquor through its outlets netted Rs 487 crore during the Onam week, an increase of Rs 30 crore from the previous year.
Kerala recorded record liquor sales of Rs 14,700 crore in 2019-20 alone.
Despite the lockdown months when bars and BEVCO outlets were closed due to the pandemic in 2020-21, Kerala still posted sales of Rs 10,340 crore.
The sale of liquor has totaled Rs 65,000 crore in the last five years. This amount is nearly equal to Kerala’s annual revenue.
Despite a 200 percent tax on liquor, Kerala leads the country in alcohol consumption.
Only the state government agency BEVCO is authorised to sell alcohol wholesale and retail, including beer and wine.