The Pinarayi Vijayan government in Kerala diluted the previous government’s curbs on alcohol by allowing its sale at three-star hotels. The minimum drinking age has been raised from 21 to 23.

The previous Congress-led coalition in 2014 had announced that the coastal state will move to become alcohol-free within 10 years. As part of that policy, the government said only five-star hotels will be granted liquor licenses.

As per reports, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan met his cabinet colleagues on Thursday evening to approve the changes to the current policy.

Kerala has the country’s highest alcohol per capita consumption. The restrictions on liquor sale battered the state’s tourism. Declaring the earlier government’s alcohol policy a “complete failure”, Vijayan said that though his government was not in favour of prohibition, they do not support “promotion” of alcohol either.

De-addiction centres will be opened to help those struggling with alcoholism and public awareness campaigns will warn about the dangers of drinking, they said.

Recently, state’s Finance Minister Thomas Isaac told NDTV that the impact on tourism was resulting in losses that were unsustainable. Under the new rules, alcohol can be sold at airports in Kerala.

The Left government was elected in 2016. Sources said now hundreds of bars that closed down will be entitled to apply for new licences.