Cease, look, go booze: In metropolis’s north, unlawful liquor vends all aslosh in money

By- A Prathap
CHENNAI: A signboard bearing the words ‘nil, kavani, sel’ (stop, look and proceed) would usually be interpreted as a cautionary sign by motorists and pedestrians. But, in the northern peripheries of the city, such red signboards serve as a tip-off for tipplers that an unauthorised 24/7 liquor outlet operates a stone’s throw away.

Functioning on the sly, several privately run wine shops have mushroomed around Almathi on the Red Hills-Tiruvallur High Road. At least two of them operate out of premises vacated by Tasmac after the ban on liquor vends within a radius of 500 metres from national highways came into effect on April 1 last year.

An TOI investigation showed that these outlets on arterial roads, with bars attached, serve alcohol 24×7. They are bereft of signboards, with the cautionary sign apparently for pedestrians being the only pointer to alert tipplers to their presence. These watering holes have seating arrangements for customers, although the cost of liquor is at least 30% higher than the rates at stateowned Tasmac wine shops.

Regulars to these outlsets said the proprietors keep the main entrance of the shops shut to hoodwink the police. Customers get inside via bylanes from main roads.

“The owner of this shop has another outlet from where he sources his liquor,” said a customer at one illegal shop in Ambedkar Nagar. At another shop in , the purveyors had given up all pretence of tact and were selling liquor in the open. Only a see-through thatched structure concealed it from the highway. A third, off near in , also did not make much effort at disguise.

Tasmac officials said these shops do not have any links to the state-owned marketing corporation. “Local heavies with political connections are running these shops out of Tasmac outlets closed due to the Supreme Court ban,” an official said. “Some of the liquor that these unauthorised shops sell is from Tasmac shops.”

The official said he could not confirm if the rest of the liquor is spurious or smuggled. “[We don’t know] because nobody has control over these shops,” he said.

Tasmac wine shops are the sole authority to market liquor after the state-owned marketing corporation took over the retail sales of Indian Made Foreign Liquor in 2003.

Tasmac employee union leader D Dhanasekaran said the government was to blame for the illegal sale of liquor.

“Some Tasmac employees had to sell stock to illegal private retailers after receving threats,” he said. “Others were assaulted.”

When ed, Sholavaram police inspector , denied the existence of illegal liquor outlets. “I can confirm that no illegal shops are operating in this area,” he said.

A senior prohibition and excise department official said action would be taken against the illegal shops.

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