Bengaluru: The Centre on Friday allowed liquor and tobacco shops to resume operations in all districts but with certain restrictions. The new rules will be applicable from May 4.

While extending the nationwide lockdown for another two weeks, the Union ministry of home affairs allowed the liquor and tobacco shops to open again in green and orange zones as well as outside the containment areas or hotspots in red zones. The sale of liquor is part of the overall opening of economic activity that the government is attempting in the third phase of the lockdown, and it is expected to earn the state's much-needed revenue.

The order is applicable to stand-alone shops. The liquor and tobacco shops inside malls or shopping complexes will remain closed.

The government has, however, said that the shopkeepers must ensure a two-metre distance between all customers.

However, many are left wondering if these shops are open in their locality. Will liquor now be freely available, or will there still be some restrictions? Will all liquor stores now open? Will all cities, towns, and villages have liquor shops operating? We will try to answer these questions here:

Where will liquor stores open?

Barring containment zones, where there is strict perimeter control and almost restricting public movement except for emergencies, liquor stores will open everywhere.

In Green Zones, i.e., districts where no case of COVID-19 has been reported in the past 21 days, liquor stores will open everywhere barring those in shopping malls, as malls are shut. This will apply to both rural and urban areas.

In Orange Zones, districts where COVID-19 case concentration is very low, liquor stores will open everywhere in the same way as they will open in Green Zones. This will apply to almost all villages, and a majority of towns, as they all fall in these two zones.

In Red Zones too, liquor stores will open. The guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) do not mention any ban on opening of liquor stores in Red Zones.

However, not all liquor stores in Red Zones will open. Sources in the MHA said that in the Red Zones, only standalone liquor stores, or liquor stores located in a colony, can open. Liquor stores that are situated in market complexes will remain shut.

This means that in cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Jaipur, Indore, Hyderabad and Bengaluru, which are all Red Zones because of the high number of COVID-19 cases, liquor stores will open — unless they are located in a market.

The MHA has issued national guidelines; states have to now issue their own, separate guidelines based on these national guidelines. And if they feel they do not want to open liquor stores, they can ignore the national guidelines in this matter.

This is because, under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, states have the power to make COVID-19 containment measures stricter if they deem it necessary. They cannot dilute restrictions imposed by the Centre, but they can ignore relaxations.