Social Clubs In Kerala Face A Harsh Future

So as you might know by now, we have this rather idiotic & unnecessary decision of the Kerala government to ban all liquor in the state buy closing down all the bars and then reducing the number of BevCo each year until total shutdown in 10 years to make the state a dry state! Other than bars in Kerala the other main victim will be the 30 or so social clubs in the state that have bar licenses. There are about a dozen blue-blooded clubs in Kerala that comprise the cream of about 30 clubs with bar licences where the snob-value of membership comes at a cost of around Rs 5 lakh (or $8,333 plus change). About 40,000 members of these exclusive clubs are waiting with bated breath to see what the state government proposes to do with the FL 4 A licence clause under which these clubs also double up as watering holes, arguably the single-largest draw for members.

Gaming facility _ two each in indoor and  outdoor _ rooms, food and parking are some of the mandatory items in the list for affiliation to the the Association of Registered Social Clubs of Kerala (ARSCK). Gaming facility _ two each in indoor and  outdoor _ rooms, food and parking are some of the mandatory items in the list for affiliation. According to the office-bearers, each club used to cough up Rs 15 lakh per year for the FL 4 A licence . There are nearly 30 clubs in the state with bar licence and 25 of them are members in ARSCK. The total number of members would come to around 40,000. The clubs fear that their earnings will suffer drastically with the alcohol ban as members will not come as frequently as they used to.

My personal memories are mostly with the Cochin Suburban club, Lotus Club and just a little bit for the Rama Varma club. Suburban club in Thrikkakara was the one that was a firm family favourite as it was just minutes away from my former home. My dad took a lifelong membership with them in the 80s when they had just started and it was so much cheaper than what they charge now. As a result my folks, sister and I plus my cousins, uncles & aunts all had many dinners there, a few functions and for my sister’s wedding we even had to book a couple of rooms for relatives to stay in back in 1995. The club has a play area for smaller kids, a library, table tennis area and later added a swimming pool, badminton courts. For special evening like Onam, Christmas, New Year’s and a club annual day function, they would have games as well as live bands performing. The food was mostly really good and we all enjoyed going there. Heck when I was 14-15 I even volunteered to work at the token counter for drinks (I didn’t handle any alcohol, I just told the members how much and collected the money and gave out drink tokens) for one function. I’ve hosted a couple of my birthdays there and invited friends.

Since our move to the city and that of most of my relatives in Cochin also to the city area the Lotus club became to de facto gathering place. Since 2006 this is the closest place to a lot of us and hence has seen family gathering, a couple of parties for pre weddings and reunion style functions for us. They have tennis courts, badminton courts, a large library, tv area for sports events, outdoor, balcony and indoor dining as well as a couple of halls that you can hire for special event if you want to. I’m not so crazy about their food but hey it’s fun when you have a lot of your cousins around for an evening. I prefer their alcohol selection and their snacks which are really good. By my reckoning we’ve had around 20 or so functions there in the last 3 years.

The Rama Varma club is one I’ve only been to a few times because only 2 of my cousins have membership there or affiliated membership which got cancelled and haven’t been there since 2007. But it is a nice place and I’ve enjoyed the few times I’ve been there drinking with my cousins. The drinking is ofcourse the main attraction for members in these clubs and now it could well be all gone in the next few days. Screw the government’s backward thinking. You paid good money for club memberships so you and your relatives/friends could meet and relax in a happy, homely atmosphere with a lot of space and the kids could play around and the men & ladies who don’t drink can still enjoy. You can’t meet your friends and drink at the BevCo lineup!

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