In good news for tipplers in Kerala, the state government on Thursday said liquor outlets will be opened soon and the sales made through online mode to ensure there was no crowding.
However, the date for reopening of the 301 state-run outlets was yet to be finalised and arrangements were being made to ensure that social distancing is maintained, it said.
Liquor outlets, a major revenue source for the state government, have remained shut in Kerala since March 24 when the national COVID-19 lockdown came into force.
Though several states, including neighbour Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, resumed sale of liquor after the easing of curbs at the end of the second phase of lockdown from May 4, Kerala has so far not allowed it. The third phase ends on May 17.
"Liquor shops are opened across the country. We will also open them in Kerala but have not finalised the date. We have opened the toddy shops from yesterday. We have 301 outlets and are making arrangements to open all of them together," state Excise Minister T P Ramakrishnan told reporters here.
He said people would be able to book the liquor online through a portal and receive an e-token after
which they could take the delivery from the outlets or bars after making the payment there.
"We are anticipating rush at the outlets have to takecertain steps... Timings will also be changed in order to avoid rush. We are yet to finalise the procedure," the minister said.
He made it clear bars and hotels will be allowed to sell liquor at state-run Beverages Corporation rates only.
Ramakrishnan also made it clear that the online token system was a temporary arrangement.
The state cabinet on Wednesday had recommended increasing the price of liquor by 10-35 per cent, to bring extra revenue to its coffers.
At present, the sales tax on Indian Made Foreign Liquor is 202 per cent for brands priced up to Rs 400 and 212 per cent for above that.
While liquor shops were not restricted by the Centre in its guidelines issued on May 3 in the Green Zones and Orange zones, the state government decided to keep them shut in Kerala, which has one of the highest per capita consumption of liquor in the country.