The Central government announced on Friday evening that certain shops like the ones registered under the Shops and Establishments Act, and outside the limits of municipalities will be allowed to operate provided they employ only 50 per cent of their employees and follow necessary precautions like wearing face masks and social distancing. However, the question remains whether liquor shops and bars will remain open.
Bars and liquor shops will not be allowed to serve or sell alcohol during the nationwide lockdown period. The government has made it clear that alcohol sale comes under a separate clause and not under the Shops and Establishment Act.
Earlier, two states- Assam and Meghalaya allowed liquor shops to sell alcohol in the first phase of the lockdown, from March 25 to April 14. Liquor shops in the two states were, however, ordered to shut down from April 15. The central government in its April 15 order said that there should be a strict ban on the sale of gutkha, liquor and tobacco during the nationwide lockdown.
In keeping with its order issued on April 15, the MHA rejected the Punjab government's request to allow liquor shops in the state on April 23. Punjab government, however, is not the only one to advocate sale of liquor in their state. Raj Thackeray wrote an open letter to Maharashtra CM and his cousin Uddhav Thackeray batting for the sale of alcohol. In his letter, Thackeray said that the lockdown will not be over anytime soon and the ban of liquor sales shall have an adverse impact on state revenues. The MNS President also said in his letter that the state should not concern itself with moral issues.
Expressing shock at Raj Thackeray's statement, AAP spokesperson Priti Sharma Menon said that in these dire situations, the priority needs to be placed on food and medical care for poor and to ensure that non-migrants are sent home safely and not liquor sales. Delhi government directed all hotels, restaurants, liquor vends and clubs in the national capital to not sell alcohol during the lockdown period. This order comes after the state Excise Department found out that some establishments were smuggling liquor from their premises.