New Delhi:Restaurants, hotels and clubs in Delhi on Saturday expressed concerns over the fate of their licenses to serve liquor even as the Delhi government announced late evening that the current excise policy will be extended by a month for a smoother transition, and continuity in the operations of the liquor vends.
Delhi excise and finance minister Manish Sisodia had earlier announced on Saturday that the national Capital will revert to the old excise policy and that only government vends will sell liquor from Monday. However, late evening, the government announced extension of the current policy by one month.
Like retail liquor shops, HCRs (hotels, clubs and restaurants) also got extensions earlier from the Delhi government which will lapse from Monday.
“If we don’t get an order before Monday for extension, then we will have to stop serving liquor in restaurants, pubs, bars and clubs. Serving liquor on premises will entirely be closed across the city then. It will be a huge loss to everyone – customers, government, businesses and their employees. It will be a mess,” said Rahul Singh, founder of The Beer Cafe.
Several restaurant owners said that in case the extension comes in a day or two, the crisis will not be as bad as what the retail liquor shops will face. “We always have a stock of more than a month. By stock, I mean the stock to serve. In any case, I am sure by next week, we will have all the information and orders in place, and will begin the required processes with regard to payment for renewal of our licenses,” said a proprietor of a popular pub in Delhi, who asked not to be named.
Under the new policy (2021-22), HCRs are supposed to pick liquor from retailers and not wholesalers. This means for one month, HCRs will have to procure liquor from retailers as they have been doing in the past eight months.
It is only from September 1 that hotels, clubs and restaurants will have to start procuring their liquor directly from the wholesaler as was the practice under the old excise regime.
To be sure, government officials said, this will be a temporary arrangement until the government finalises the 2022-23 excise policy, which will also need the approval of the LG. Under the 2022-23 excise policy, the Delhi government planned to lift restrictions from discounts, making liquor cheaper. Though the existing excise policy also permits discounts on liquor, on February 28 the Delhi government discontinued discounts being offered by liquor stores due to overcrowding and violations of Covid-related guidelines. On April 2, the Delhi government permitted liquor stores to offer up to a maximum of 25% discount on the maximum retail price.
The new policy also proposes allowing home delivery, opening of special bars that will serve only wine and beer; and discontinuation of the need to open at least two liquor stores in each ward; renewal of zonal retail licenses at same annual fee as the previous year; re-tendering zones at a base reserve fee of ₹280 crore (as against ₹225 crore in 2021-22) in case an existing vendor pulls out; rationalisation of the brand registration fee for spirits other than whisky at just ₹5,000 instead of ₹1 lakh, among others.