Liquor. Image Source: IANS News

Chennai, May 16 : Tipplers in Tamil Nadu wearing masks, helmets and holding umbrellas queued up before the state-owned liquor shops early on Saturday as the government armed with apex court orders decided to reopen the shops even as the nationwide lockdown is set to begin its fourth phase.

On Friday the state government said, liquor shops located outside Chennai and Thiruvallur districts will be opened for business between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Dark blue coloured tokens specifying the shop number, time slot were distributed to those standing in the queue.

In many places in the state, tipplers started queuing up before the liquor outlets at 8 a.m. as the government decided to issue only 500 tokens per day per shop.

For seven days in a week, different coloured tokens will be issued.

Liquor retail in Tamil Nadu is a state monopoly run by the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation or popularly known as Tasmac.

There are over 5,300 Tasmac liquor outlets in the state contributing about Rs 30,000 crore of tax revenue to the state exchequer.

The revenue from the liquor sales was bottled up during the lockdown period.

Earlier when the government had opened the liquor shops on May 7 after a gap of 45 days, in two days liquor worth Rs 170 crore was sold.

The Tamil Nadu government said in order to control the movement of people in the border areas with Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh as liquor shops have been opened there, the decision to open liquor shops in the state was taken.

Major opposition parties in the state have strongly criticised the government's decision to open the liquor outlets. During the May 7 exercise, however, social distance was not maintained and there were large crowd before the shops risking spread of Coronavirus.

The Madras High Court on May 8 ordered closure of the shops as its conditions for opening up of the shops were not followed but allowed online sales.

On May 15, the Supreme Court stayed the High Court's order.

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