With polling for the Assembly elections having concluded on February 4, the spotlight in Goa is on the implications of a recent Supreme Court order, banning alcohol shops within 500 metres of the country’s national and state highways, on the tourist state.

Tourism drives the coastal state’s economy and the state has a high density of bars, with two major national highways passing through major towns and habitations. The apex court order is therefore likely to have a big financial repercussion on Goa.

“The government will have to take a decision [on how to implement the ban,” the state excise commissioner Menino D’Souza told Scroll.in. “For the last two months we have been busy with election duties. Now taluka level teams have been formed to do physical ground surveys and indicate on the survey plans, the area to be affected and the bars and shops that fall in this area”


The state has issued alcohol-sale licences to 11,100 shops, taverns and bar-cum-restaurants that sell liqour. Of this, an estimated 3,000 establishments and vendors would be affected by the ban, according to the state excise department.

The Supreme Court in December directed states and the Centre not to grant licences to alcohol vends within 500 metres of highways and said existing licences would be nullified from April 1.

Goa has kept its excise rates for Indian Made Foreign Liquor, wines, country and foreign liquor as well as other spirits relatively low, which has caused alcohol vending shops to swell in the state. There is a high demand for spirits from domestic tourists, who purchase it at low rates here to beat the higher duties in their home states. The state’s excise revenue in 2015-’16 was Rs 317 crore.

According to data from the state transport department, Goa has 224 km of national highways and 231 km of state highways. It boasts one of the highest road densities in the country (2,855 km of road per 1,000 km).

The state’s infrastructure development priorities have consistently focussed on road projects – upgrading state highways to national highways and major district roads to state highways. This, coupled with the high concentration of alcohol vending establishments will make the Supreme Court ban catastrophic for them, said those in the liqour business.

Up in arms

On Saturday, the All Goa Liquor Traders Association held a meeting to decide the course of action post the ban. They criticised the government for not being proactive enough, sought relief from the state government and threatened to block highways in protest. The association’s president, Dattaprasad Naik, who was also the BJP candidate from the Taleigao seat, told the media that the Goa government should explain the state’s predicament due to the ban.

The association has suggested that the state government could denotify state highways, so that lesser bars and vendors would be affected by the order. However, Excise Commissioner D’Souza pointed out that excise licences can also be transferred or shifted, to allow shops to relocate further away from highways.

Apart from liquor retail shops, many restaurants serving alcohol are worried they could also face the heat of the ban. From roadside dhabas to grade II eateries, fine-dining restaurants and even bars in starred hotels and malls, there are many such establishments in close proximity of highways. “The highways in Goa run through the centres of many towns including Vasco da Gama, Margao, Ponda and bustling suburbs like Porvorim,” said Savio Messias, president of the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa. “So, a lot of even upper-end restaurants are worried they could get affected.”

O’Coqueiro, a restaurant on National Highway 17, has been a Goan landmark since 1972. “If we have to run a soft drink bar and stop serving spirits, the spirit of the place will be lost” said business development manager Shekhar Diwarkar.

Diwarkar said he hopes the state government backs the liqour industry and intervenes in the issue. But with the code of conduct for the elections in place till the results are out on March 11, administration in the state is in limbo, adding to the industry’s anxiety.

The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party government, whose term ends in March, had earlier indicated it would speak up against the ban. Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar has sought the advocate general’s opinion on the matter, but said it would be up to the incoming government to tackle it. On Wednesday, though, following advice from the state advocate general, the government said it would be advisable for trade bodies affected to move court.

“The advocate general is of the opinon that restaurants in bar and restaurants do not fall in the purview of that order,” Parsekar told Scroll.in. “But these are things which are to be discussed in the court.”