MUMBAI: Leading alcohol groups are increasingly working with wedding planners, delivering directly to the venues, and setting up pop-up bars at the celebrations, as weddings move away from highways and hotels.

The development follows the decision by India’s Supreme Court to ban the sale of alcohol near to highways in an attempt to curb drink driving. For hotels, the ban presents a significant problem, as many sit next to highways. Now many Indian weddings are moving away.

But for alcohol manufacturers, the ban presents a new opportunity to access customers through a new channel, the Economic Times reported. Ivan Menzies, CEO of Diageo plc told investors that the company is expanding its "route to market".

This, he says, will enable the company "to access occasions such as weddings, and use popup bars to be present in festivals and other events which provide opportunities for consumers to enjoy our drinks and for us to share our brand stories with them".

Despite the ban, which came into force on 1st April, spirits sales from weddings appear to be undisturbed, as hosts opt for changing the venue, but not the budget for spirits, which will likely go to giants Diageo, Pernod Ricard, and William Grant.

"Spirit companies have recognised this opportunity and work with planners, caterers, and at times even directly with the wedding couples to plan it," said Sandeep Arora, director at luxury spirits consultancy and services provider Spiritual Luxury Living.

Chetan Vohra, managing director at Weddingline, an event management company, told the paper that hosts had key priorities for weddings, adding, "the biggest mandate is that we should not run out of liquor during functions."

A priority on the alcohol supply looks set to damage the revenues of upmarket hotels, the FT suggested, as sales of alcohol make up some 15% to 30% of income, particularly for weddings, according to rating agency Crisil.

Raj Rana, CEO of Carlson Rezidor, India’s biggest hotel group, believes the decision will harm India’s reputation: "It doesn’t bode well if we’re trying to be seen as a progressive company competing for business," he told the newspaper.

Elsewhere, smaller bars are thinking up labyrinthine methods to add extra metres onto the path to alcohol purchase. At the Aishwarya Restrobar in north Paravoor, Kerala, owners constructed a maze to increase the distance from the highway to the door.

Data sourced from Economic Times, Financial Times, Guardian; additional content by WARC staff