Colombo, Sept 18 (DailyMirror) – Countrywide liquor shops were opened to the public around 3.00 pm today following an unofficial order received by the Department of Excise from the Ministry of Finance, the Excise sources said.
Liquor shops bearing the Excise Department license FL04 (wine stores) and FL22B (beer and wine shops) have therefore been granted permission to open for sales.
When contacted Excise Commissioner General M J Gunasiri told the Daily Mirror yesterday afternoon that they have not received any formal written instructions to relax the restrictions of countrywide liquor sales.
He said however there had been discussions with the relevant authorities from the Ministry of Finance since yesterday morning to look into the possibilities of granting permission to let the liquor stores to open and function as closure of wine shops creates a major impact on the economy.
The Excise Chief further said that the government’s previous requirement was to let the tourist board approved hotels to grant permission to sell liquor only to foreign tourists that visit Sri Lanka under approved health bubbles.
However, when contacted a top Excise official on the condition of anonymity told the Daily Mirror that they had been instructed over the phone by a top official in the Finance Ministry to relax the prevailing restrictions on sale of liquor.
He too admitted that they were yet to receive a formal written circular on this order by the Ministry of Finance.
Lengthy queues were seen forming up outside all the leading supermarkets and liquor stores since afternoon.
In the meantime, consumers in mile-long queues were seen carrying back large stocks of liquor from the first opportunity they had.
Speculation was rife that the opportunity the consumers received this evening may not last long with objections filed by health authorities.