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14 Jun 2017

Liquor shops asked to close

A closed wine shop at Chowrastha in Darjeeling on Tuesday. Picture by Passang Yolmo
Vivek Chhetri, TT, Darjeeling, June 13: A volatile Darjeeling has almost gone dry after the district administration ordered the closure of liquor shops in the hill town.
While the excise department said off-shops had been asked to remain closed from yesterday till tomorrow, bar owners said the ban had been imposed on some of them also.
Sources in the district administration said stone pelting by alleged Gorkha Janmukti Morcha supporters on police during the June 8 violence was the trigger behind the clampdown on the alcohol outlets.
"Many Morcha supporters who hurled stones at police personnel during the clash in Darjeeling on June 8 were drunk. That is why the ban on the liquor sale from off-shops has been imposed," said an administrative source.
There are 36 bars and 18 off-shops in the Darjeeling town.
"Off-shops have been asked to remain closed in the Darjeeling town till Wednesday," said a senior excise department official.
Dharmendra Poddar, the acting secretary of the West Bengal On and Off Shop, Country Spirit and Hotel (Bar Licence) Owners' Association, told The Telegraph: "The administration has asked us to close shop. They seem to believe many people who were involved in the recent incident were drunk."
Although excise officials stressed that the closure covered only the off-shops, Poddar said the police had gone to some bars and asked them to down the shutters. However, a few restaurant owners in Darjeeling said they had not received any communication, verbal or written, on sale of liquor.
"There are hundreds of shops that sell liquor without licence but we are facing the brunt. Many hill homes brew liquor at home and can the administration stop people from drinking? They are just stopping us," said a hotelier.
Poddar said some of the members of the association had not received a written order but were merely told over the phone that they had to down their shutters. "One of our association members informed me that police had gone to his bar and told him to stop doing business immediately. This happened yesterday."

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