Though the draft liquor policy of the LDF government is silent on pubs, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has opened up about the importance of post-dusk social life around IT parks in Kerala. He said the government would soon initiate steps to develop and encourage the necessary nightlife infrastructure for IT parks.

“We had seriously thought of this earlier but could not take the necessary steps because of COVID. Now that we are opening up, we will go ahead,” Vijayan told the Assembly on Wednesday.

He also said that the absence of pubs was seen as a major drawback by top IT companies. The chief minister, as if to justify the pub policy, said such requirements were dictated by social change. “When big IT companies come to Kerala, their mostly young employees would naturally want the facilities they enjoyed in other IT hotspots in the country. That we lack such facilities has become a big disadvantage for us,” he said. The chief minister said the representatives these big companies send to assess the facilities in Kerala would report back that Kerala was far behind in terms of providing avenues for leisure.

Big companies do consider opportunities for leisure as important as air and road connectivity in a place. It is said that when the auto giant Nissan planned to open its first global digital hub in Kerala, nightlife infrastructure around the hub was one of its major demands.

This is the second time the chief minister has openly articulated the need for a pub culture for IT employees who yearn for options to relax and unwind after working long and hard. In his weekly sponsored TV show, Naam Munnottu, in November 2019, the chief minister had revealed that the lack of a pub culture in Kerala was impeding Kerala’s IT growth. Then, too, he had said the near absence of unwinding options in Kerala were holding back IT majors from investing in the state.

However, in the months that followed, the CPI(M) had discussed the issue in detail and decided to leave out any mention of pubs and nightlife in the draft liquor policy that was released on February 25, 2020. There was a fear that the UDF would use it as an election issue. Still, sources had then told Onmanorama that the policy was not dumped for good, but just left to cool till a favourable moment arrived.

Interestingly, two weeks before the draft policy was unveiled, the then excise minister T.P. Ramakrishnan had said that pubs could be opened after paying a licence fee of Rs 50,000. In short, the LDF government had always kept its pub policy alive. It also helped that the chief minister himself was handling the IT portfolio.

(This article was first published in onmanorama)

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