Kerala’s snaking long queues in front of its liquor shops — the state’s only source of alcohol after bars were banned in 2014 — are almost as famous as the backwaters and beaches, but some relief may be on the horizon for hapless liquor buyers.
As there are only about 340 liquor shops in a state with 35 million people, buyers have to stand in queue for at least half an hour to buy alcohol in the state.
During peak hours, people are forced to stand in queue for up to two hours to get their hands of their favorite ‘brands’.
That may be about to change.
A liquor shop in state capital Trivandrum has introduced a ‘token system’, which allows customers to collect a token and then sit comfortably in chairs to await their turn.
The shop, at Mukkola in Trivandrum, has placed a large sign urging users to take advantage of the new solution.
The system is soon likely to be expanded state-wide, according to sources in the state beverages corporation, which operates all such outlets in the state.
Three years ago, the Congress Party government put in new rules that permitted only five-star hotels to serve liquor, restricting the number of bars in the state to around a dozen.
Five-star hotels were exempted from the state-wide ban on bars to ensure that the move did not impact international tourism, a key source of foreign exchange for the country.
However, the new Left Front government last month allowed three-star and four-star hotels to operate bars, which had the effect of re-opening another 77 bars.
Two-star hotels and standalone bars continue to be prohibited from selling hard liquor and can only serve wine and beer.
The Congress government banned alcohol in the state under pressure from religious and Church leaders, who oppose alcohol for religious reasons.
There were also allegations that the bars were closed after the biggest bar owners association refused to pay bribes to the government. The allegations, backed up by audio tapes, forced the then finance minister KM Mani to resign.
The shutdown affected thousands of establishments, some of which shut down while others converted themselves into restaurants or continued to operate by serving only beer and wine.