Panaji: Goa's reputation as India's top low budget party destination could just be in peril as liquor stores have been told to shut shop early.
A state finance ministry order issued late Thursday, which officials say is aimed at curbing drinking in open public areas at night, has banned all liquor stores from selling liquor beyond 9 p.m., as against 11 p.m. earlier.
Menino D'Souza, commissioner the state excise department, which is in charge of implementing the order, said restaurants and bars too come under the ambit of the state finance ministry directive.
"Bars and restaurants can now serve alcohol only up to 1 a.m., unlike 5 a.m. earlier. Our regulation time for serving liquor is 11 p.m. To stay open up to 1 a.m., restaurants and bars will have to avail of a special licence," Menino said.
Earlier, on payment of a special, hefty licence fee, bars and restaurants had been allowed to run until 5 a.m. Only five-star restaurants and establishments under the A, B or C category have now been allowed to keep their bars open until 5 a.m.
A finance ministry official says the move will keep at bay the quintessential low budget tourists, who flock to Goa for cheap liquor.
"We have received complaints from the tourism industry stakeholders who have cited safety concerns about groups of male tourists who run riot on the beaches after drinking alcohol at night. This move should curb that to some extent," a senior official said.
With Goa holding the envious reputation of selling the cheapest liquor in the country, the state over the last few years has been witness to large groups of all-male tourists from nearby states who, the tourism department officials claim, have been unflattering to the state's profile.
Francisco Braganza, president of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG), told IANS the move to close down liquor stores early was a welcome step -- one that would help make Goa's beaches safer and cleaner.
"What's been happening is that wine stores meant to sell liquor wholesale are selling alcohol, sometimes even through the night, to tourists who then hit the beaches with the bottles and create a public nuisance as well as litter," Braganza said.
The official said liquor stores which open till late even serve alcohol in plastic cups to patrons, something which is in complete violation of the excise department norms, but also ends up littering the beach areas with plastic.
"We had asked the state government to crack down on these wine stores and we are glad it has happened," Braganza said.