EVOLUTION OF TOURIST HOTELS WITH LIQUOR PERMITS IN KERALA
The freedom to enjoy a wide variety of favorite foods and drinks has been the major attraction of Kerala for foreign as well as domestic tourists. Most foreign tourists who visit Kerala are from countries with cooler climates and prefer chilled beverages. Hotels being a part of hospitality industry, demands an offer of choice of drinks to all class and segments of tourists. Liquor permits issued to tourist hotels in the State of Kerala is controlled, inter alia, by the Foreign Liquor Rules, which were framed and brought into force with effect from 01.04.1953 These Rules provide for issuing of different kinds of liquor permits in hotels in the interest of promotion of tourism in the state. The rule which stands on the statute book today is the result of many changes made in the original rule on account of several policy changes of the State Government on the issue of foreign liquor and tourism development.
When the Rules were originally enacted, there was a provision made for foreign liquor vending license (FL-3) to be issued by the Excise Commissioner with the previous sanction of the Government to any recognized hotel/restaurant run on European lines on payment of certain prescribed fee.
On 14.08.1981, by an amendment, the practice of grant of Liquor permits only to hotels or restaurants run on European lines was discontinued. From 15.04.1982, a further amendment was made in Rule 13(3) providing that new license shall be issued after the commencement of Foreign Liquor Rules 1982 , only to hotels and restaurants which confirm to the standard of two star hotel. Hotels which had been licensed prior to 12.08.1981 were given three months’ time to upgrade their facilities confirming to the requirements specified in the relevant rules . The Excise Commissioner was given the authority to decide any dispute or doubt with regard to availability of two star facilities.
With effect from 28.02.1986, there was a drastic change made in the Foreign Liquor Rules. Rule 13(3) was amended, and, for the first time, a distance restriction for the grant of new licenses with effect from the ensuing abkari year, i.e. 01.04.1986, was provided. The license was not to be granted to establishments situated within the prohibited distance of certain specified institutions like educational institutions, places of worship and so on.
On 09.01.1992, there was a further amendment made, inserting a proviso that no such licenses would be issued afresh after 18th September, 1991. On 18th February, 1992, sub Rule 3 of Rule 13 was substituted and allowed the existing licensees, who do not maintain Two Star standards time upto 30th June, 1992 to upgrade their standards to Two Star. From 01.04.1992 liquor permits were issued to hotels or restaurants conforming to the standard of two star and higher classification, owned or run by Kerala Tourism Development Corporation Limited (KTDC), the India tourism development Corporation Limited (ITDC) and also to the hotels having rating of three stars and higher classifications, heritage and resort hotel as well as classified restaurants. On 04.03.1993 the rule was further amended which omitted the grant of liquor permits to hotels conforming to the standards of two stars. Through the intervention of the court at the instance of Kerala Bar Hotels Association, which was the apex body of various category of hotels with liquor permits operating in the state, all categories of hotels were permitted to continue their liquor licenses/permits until government takes a policy decision in this regard.
Later, by an amendment in the year 2004, the government of Kerala made two star classifications mandatory for the existing unclassified hotels with liquor permits. However due to the intervention of the court this was not implemented. All existing hotels without having two star classifications was regularized by the Government for the purpose of renewal of liquor permits.
Subsequently by an amendment introduced with effect from 01-04-2007, new liquor licences were issued to hotels of Three Stars and higher classifications including Heritage, Heritage Grand and Heritage Classic category of hotels having approval of Ministry of Tourism, Government of India. Once again the Government regularised all existing category of hotels without having the above classification, facilitating the renewal of liquor permits of all licensed hotels existed during 2009-2010 period.
The year 2014 witnessed a drastic change in the Tourism and Abkari Policy of the Government of Kerala. Due to certain political reasons, “Liquor Ban” was imposed in the state for all the hotels excluding Five Star category. This policy had a negative impact on the whole Tourism Industry in the state.
Subsequently in the year 2016, the newly elected Government of Kerala through its dynamic and progressive Tourism and Abkari Policy reintroduced grant of liquor permits to Tourist hotels having three star and higher classification approved by the Ministry of Tourism Government of India. Considering the growth potential in the Tourism Sector , the various categories of tourist hotels operating under the umbrella of Kerala Bar Hotels Association joined together to promote and protect the tourism and hospitality industry and its stake holders , renamed the association to “ FEDERATION OF KERALA HOTELS ASSOCIATION “ ( FKHA for short ) . Now more than 800 hotels operating under various categories have membership and affiliations with FKHA and the organisations is scaling new heights by implementing various projects and schemes in connection with promotion of Tourism in the State of Kerala.