Finally we don’t have to stand in line with all and sundry outside a liquor shop or pick up what the store has to hand you from the bottles stored at the room temperature of above 35° C- a few notable exceptions like a couple of modern DSIDC stores etc. notwithstanding. The Supermarkets are now allowed to sell wine along with beer according to the recent notification. This office order is in fact, only giving effect to the policy announced by the government last year. Under the L-53 license already in existence, beer sale had already been permitted- wine has merely been added to it.
Foreign wines and beers are also now allowed for sale, but in order to do so an L-53F will have to be taken from the excise department. The annual fee for the L-53 license will be Rs.200, 000 ($4250)-it is chargeable for the remaining quarters in case of applying during the year. The L- 53F license costs 10% extra.
Case for a supermarket
Morning Stores in Greater Kailash- I already has the wine stocks. Star Bazaar is about to get the products. Nature’s Basket in Defence Colony has the foot on the accelerator-they have applied for the license but apparently have not received it yet. It would be interesting to watch their case-they are all dressed for the party but may have a flat tire! The notification says that the applicant must have been running the department store at least 12 months before the application; the store started its (Delhi) operations only in March this year with much fanfare through its hyped up PR that made many busy journalists report that the wine was already available.
It won’t be surprising if the excise department got irked by the undue publicity on wine sales. In all fairness to the NB, L-53 was being issued to even the start ups last year when it did create some problems. The department had reportedly suspended giving new licenses recently under the scheme. It was perhaps waiting for the new office order which has now put a spoke in the wheel.
There is another problem that needs to be resolved. A maximum of 15% space is allowed and a minimum of 500 square ft for wine is required to bag the license. The total space available to Nature’s Basket is around 3000 sq ft with a room of about 200 sq ft set aside for wine. A simple calculation would indicate that it is a no-go situation for the supermarket under the policy. It is another matter that the carpet area for wine and beer at the Morning Stores appears to be also less than 500 sq ft., which in any case is an unfair requirement, considering the cost of real estate. It would have been more advisable to make the requirement of air-conditioned storage compulsory.
A visit to Nature's Basket in Defence Colony on Sunday got us the usual response from the staff, like an answering machine, ‘the license is expected within a couple of weeks.’ The staff apparently did not have the contact details of the General Manager, Mr. Saket who one could call up to learn a few tricks of the trade, failing which one could sympathize.
One hopes there is an amendment soon or the baboos find some way to bend the rules. Hopefully, delWine is wrong in analyzing the complex notification. Otherwise, it would be very unfortunate for the Nature’s Basket. Despite the hype at the store opening, it is a very modern and sophisticated supermarket where one enjoys the shopping experience. If they are not given the license it would simply mean that either the department has not applied its mind properly while framing the policy or it is simply a symbol to show that they hold the three aces in their hand.
Commonwealth Games Effect
A few minor hiccups notwithstanding, the wine retail scene is ready to change in Delhi-finally. After sitting on the idea for several years (Chandigarh imposed the policy about 4 years ago, Himachal Pradesh had it for even longer), after a local minister making a statement to the media last year about allowing such sales, the step comes quietly and without any fanfare, most likely thanks to the Commonwealth Games in October this year.
To get the license, there are the usual formalities to comply with. A chain of department stores having annual sales of Rs.50 million may get the license for each of their store in Delhi. A supermarket, very generously defined, should have annual sales of over Rs. 1.5 million. But here is the rider- they should have been in the business for a year and the NB has been in business in Delhi for 3 months!
Sell Wine in an Electronics Shop
If you think you can open that wine boutique you have been dreaming about for years, you may have to wait a while longer.-unless you can make some arrangement with a grocer, a small supermarket who allows you to use a corner of the store- a max of 15% space of the store can be utilized for storage of wine in a separate corner with a warning sign saying, ‘Drinking of Liquor is Dangerous to Health’ (mercifully, it does not relate to wine!).
Since a minimum space of 500 sq ft is required, the so called supermarket must have about 3500 sq ft area. If that happens, one may find a wine boutique in an electronic store or a stationery shop selling wines soon! The supermarket is defined as the one selling i) Grocery items,(ii) vegetables (iii) Frozen foods, (iv) Sugary & Bakery items, (v) Toiletries, (vi) Cosmetics,(vii) House hold goods (viii) Toys, (ix) Sports items, (x) Electronic appliances, (xi) Apparels, (xii) Office – Stationery, (xiii) any other goods. The definition as of now means it could be any of the above-including ‘any other goods’.
Liquor Sales at Shopping Malls
The Delhi government has also allowed the sale of Indian Made Foreign Liquor and Beer through shops in the Malls from 2010-11 onwards, subject to some basic conditions and formalities. The sale is possible through the annual license L-56 which can be obtained for Rs.600,000 a year and additional security.
Surprisingly, the notification dated 28th May, released about a week ago is quiet on the sale of wines. It makes the beer storage compulsory in refrigerators. But it is also silent on the sale of imported liquor and beer
One hopes it is a small aberration and only an oversight that would soon be clarified and the sale of wine-Indian and imported, would be allowed to be sold under this provision in the malls too. Nothing would be more ridiculous if IMFL and beer sales are allowed and not wine.
Nine L-56 licenses have been granted already while 14 applications have been received by the department according to reports. We shall inform the delWine readers once the clarifications are received. In the meantime, you may want to head for the department store you like and which, in all likelihood be air-conditioned and will soon stock up a variety of wines.
Slow and Steady ‘Wines’ the Race
What is required now is the implementation of the second phase for the Commonwealth Games- rollback of the excise duty to the previous rational level. Don’t be surprised if you wake up one day reading in these columns that the excise duty has been rolled back to the original level of Rs. 150 a bottle.
To read about customs duties being waived off in delWine, you may have to wait for our April 1 edition or move to Hong Kong which is currently the center of the universe for wine after they waived the duties off a couple of years ago and is really the boom town.