With political parties in Tamil Nadu promising total prohibition — some saying it would be implemented in a phased manner and others, with immediate effect — the hotel industry is hoping for a rational alcohol policy after the elections. While the political parties have agreed to rehabilitate and absorb the staff working in Tasmac shops across the state, they have remained silent on their plans for thousands of workers at private hotels and clubs. Cancelling the FL 3 licences given to 721 star hotels —described by the Tamil Nadu Liquor (Licence and Permit) Rules 1981 as an establishment with twenty bedrooms, well-trained staff, kitchens and a parking space — and FL 2 licences given to 205 non-proprietary clubs, would result in close to 20,000 people losing their jobs overnight. Hoteliers feel that total prohibition would eventually cause many of these establishments to shut down as they make most of their money from the bars. “Bars account for close to 50-60 per cent of food sales. Thousands of people will be out of jobs as every bar employs at least 10 to 12 people — waiters, bartenders, managers, etc,” says an hotelier, who wished to remain anonymous. Entrepreneur Arasu Dennis, who has helped set up a number of pubs in the city, says that the hotel industry is expecting the next government to shut down the liquor shops and regulate the FL 3 and FL 2 licenses. “If they make it illegal to sell alcohol in the State, it would throw the spanner into the works. We have spent a lot of money to set up these establishments — such as licence costs, rentals and advance costs,” he says, adding, “We are hoping that the number of Tasmac shops is brought down and those with FL 3 licenses are left alone since we are already complying with many rules.” S. Ramesh Rao, who tried to set up a small bar in vain, said that procuring a license is a cumbersome process as it involves building plans, location and approval from a host of local authorities. Many entrepreneurs and hoteliers are questioning the need for prohibition when the rules in the state are already strict. Not just that the bartenders and waiters, but total prohibition will affect DJs, musicians and stand-up comedians, whose careers are just taking off in Chennai. “ It will be very bad for those people. At least we can redeploy bartenders as waiters. But stand-up comedy and live bands need a special ambience,” says the general manager of a five star hotel. Standup artist Bhargav Ramakrishnan agrees that this would be a setback for artistes who have been using pubs and bars to showcase their talent. “It is a cause for concern for people like us. We will have to reinvent the wheel again. As such, we don’t get to make as much money doing standup comedy. If the revenues decline, it would be difficult to get top talent from around the country to come to Chennai,” he says.