Booze curfew stifling Chennai's IPL fun

Last Updated: Wed, May 23, 2012 11:27 hrs

Chennai Super Kings may have just sneaked into the last four of the IPL edition 5, but not before spiking the blood pressure of many a CSK fan.

Fans say it is bad enough that CSK's performance is erratic (to put it mildly). But to also have to read or watch media reports of rave parties and bar brawls in other cities is really making them feel as though they were in an under developed pocket of India, given that the city's watering holes close early.  

In Chennai the last order is taken at 10. 15 pm, served  by 10.30 pm and within half hour - 11 pm - patrons have to leave the premises. Chennai is one of the few mega cities to follow such an early closure of  bars.

Contrast this with Mumbai where the last order is taken at midnight and customers are allowed an hour at least, to enjoy the last drink. Recently, on May 9, Kerala's excise department rescheduled the closing hours, whereby bars in Corporation limits can function from 9 am until midnight.

In Delhi, if you want to order a single malt or just a beer at 1 am, it is not an issue at all. In Bangalore patrons can stay just short of the Cinderella hour in bars. Clearly, it’s an early 'bottoms up'  only in Chennai, and fans say there are too many downsides to it.

Insurance and financial consultant SR Diwakar, an avid IPL fan says that the 11 pm curfew ensures that fans do not watch a full match.

"Since retail outlets shut down by 10 pm, you have very few options. The excise department should look at extending the hours," he feels.

V Mani, a head honcho in a private company says that with traffic winding down only at 9 pm in Chennai, and people settling down to enjoy a drink only by 10 pm, the bar timings definitely need to be rescheduled  in a way that will truly reflect the vibrant nature of Chennai.

From every angle, Chennai's bar closure timings are being no-balled by fans. "When you have to order drinks by 10.15 and  down them all by 11, how can any of us master the soft skills of drinking like gentlemen?" asks 24 year old Varun R, a CSK fan, tongue firmly in cheek. 

And lets not forget, people in Tamil Nadu have a hearty tryst with booze. 

The 6, 690 Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC) shops - the official dispensers of booze in the state - are hard to miss. Over 3560 of these are in urban areas.

Official statistics show that the state government generated Rs 18,081.16 crore from liquor sales in the financial year 2011-2012, which itself is a 20. 28% hike over the previous fiscal.

TASMAC  shops sold 5.4 crore cases of hard liquor as against the 4.8 crore cases in 2010-2011. Brandy emerged as everyma's favourite, with nearly 80% market share, followed by rum at a distant second with a 14 % share of the pie, and whiskey trickling in at 4 % of total sales.

What a cheerful  growth this has been for the state - after all in 1996, liquor sales netted only Rs 1,425 crore.

Now, contrast this with the coffers.  Take a look at the annual CAG report tabled in the TN Assembly recently.

According to its 2010-1011 audit, the state's fiscal liabilities stand at a whopping  Rs 111, 657 crore .

Clearly, the government could do with more income.  Ask any B-school guru and he will tell you that if there is a demand in the market, then you only need to come up with  innovative ways of exploiting the same .  

Fans say the problems of inconvenient bar timing, a demand driven market needs and a sorely needed revenue generator for the state coffers can all be met with one stroke - keep the bars open 24 x 7.

This is not a novel idea of course.

Last year,  the media reported that the south Indian hotel industry was seeking changes in official drinking hours.  K Syamu Raju, who was elected as president of South India Hotels and Restaurants Association  was quoted as saying that  'excise rules were outdated in the emerging scenario' , and that they would approach the state's excise department to go easy on the closing hours.

Until 2007, TASMAC shops used to open at 8 in the morning and close only at midnight. However, the then DMK government revised the timings  and the shops  began functioning from 10 am to 11 pm. Two years later, in 2009, the DMK government again changed the official drinking hours to a 12 hour stretch of  10 am to 10 pm.

With IPL in Chennai turning out to be hugely popular, Varun says the excise department should  raise the bar.

Other fans raise their glasses in toast.

Other columns by the author....

Swamy Nityananda & an unholy controversy over Mutts

School fee issue: Should TN look at an annual hike structure?

Who's behind Leela Samson's ouster from Kalakshetra?

Time for Tamil Nadu to rock the cradle

Karunanidhi's wrong call for Tamil 'Eelam'

Tamil Nadu's shameful disregard for heritage buildings 

Bhama Devi Ravi is a Chennai based journalist

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