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Hyderabad not scared of Omicron, open for New Year’s as govt allows liquor service till 1 am

Telangana HC had asked govt to impose restrictions like in Maharashtra & Delhi. But there’s no ban on people walking in to pubs & clubs, though they aren’t hosting special events.

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Hyderabad: Businesses in Telangana’s capital are silently preparing for celebrations on 31 December as the government has not imposed any stringent restrictions, despite an order from the high court. The K. Chandrashekar Rao-led state government, in fact, granted permission to bars and pubs to serve liquor till 1 am on New Year’s Eve.

In an order released Tuesday, the Excise Department permitted licence holders of bars, clubs, in-house (guest house events), and events to serve liquor up to 1 am, while retail shops are allowed to be open for business up to midnight.

According to pub owners and event management companies in Hyderabad, they are running businesses as usual for the most part. While they aren’t hosting any special events, there is no restriction on people walking in to these venues to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

The Telangana High Court had, last week, asked the state government to impose restrictions similar to the ones put up in Maharashtra and Delhi, as it heard a batch of pleas seeking restrictions. At least seven states and Union territories including Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi imposed a night curfew owing to the rise in Covid cases amid a rapidly spreading Omicron variant.

The government, however, released an order on 25 December banning rallies and public meetings till 2 January, but permitting “events involving congregation of people” with basic directions such as physical distancing, mandatory masks and thermal screening.

“This is like an insult to the court orders. The court specifically mentioned that similar restrictions as that of Maharashtra, Delhi must be imposed in the wake of Christmas, New Year and even Sankranti because there would be a lot of events at that time,” said advocate Prabhakar Chikkudu, who represented the petitioners.

“They just released a loose order — mentioning nothing about these events but randomly saying public meetings are banned. Public meetings indicate political public meetings. The order allowed events with a congregation of people. They cleverly ignored festivals,” he said.

“It is obvious these events generate a lot of money and the government gets liquor revenue, tax on eatables. For the revenue, they’re ignoring the right to life,” he alleged.

The court will take up the case again Wednesday.

ThePrint reached Director of Public Health G. Srinivasa Rao for a comment via phone calls and text message but there was no response until the time of publishing this report. Other health officials also did not comment on the issue. 


Also read: With polls coming up, only 40% adults in Punjab are fully vaccinated, lowest in India


Pubs, event managers gearing up for NY celebrations

With no clear instructions from the government yet, Hyderabad’s pubs and clubs are making preparations for the New Year celebrations. While not many have openly advertised any large events or taken any ‘pre-bookings’ for New Year’s Eve, they have kept their doors open for the crowd to walk in on the night.

“Government did not stop any public events. So, we will follow the usual SOP and allow people to party on 31st December night. However, we are not hosting an event which we used to do pre-pandemic… If people want to come to the pub and party, they can. There is also no limit on how many people we should host,” the owner of a plush pub in the city tld ThePrint on the condition of anonymity.

Some businesses have placed self-imposed restrictions, allowing only 50 per cent occupancy.

Vaibhav Kumar Modi, co-founder of Dark Vibe Society, a company handling such events on a large scale, pointed out that artists from other cities such as Bengaluru have been asking venues in Hyderabad if they can perform for New Year events. Modi added that several of his friends, from cities which have a night curfew, are coming to Hyderabad over the next few days.

“There is a lot of uncertainty. We don’t know if we have to book artists and several of them from Bengaluru and all are reaching out to us for gigs here. The industry suffered a lot and this is the time (for business),” said Modi.

As of Monday, Telangana has reported 45 cases of Omicron variant, of which 10 have recovered. Total active Covid cases in the state are 182.

(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)

This report has been updated after Telangana government issued its Tuesday order.


Also read: Resident doctors across India threaten shutdown of services after police ‘crackdown’ in Delhi


 

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