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Posted: Saturday, 17 October 2020 23:58

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Welcome Reforms by Delhi Government for Restaurants serving Alcohol

Oct 17: After knee-jerk reaction during Covid including introduction of 75% Covid tax in May, 2020, the Delhi Government has come down from the high horse and has decided to be helpful to the wine and hospitality industry by taking several positive steps, like allowing the service of wine and food on terrace or lawn of the licensee, writes Subhash Arora who exhorts them again to allow selling of wine and beer through department stores that was banned last year due to irregularities discovered at a few stores

There is no doubt that the hospitality industry is on its knees, struggling to revive itself out of Covid. Several restrictions by the Delhi Excise have also crippled the industry. At a meeting held on October 10 with the Deputy Chief Minister, Manish Sisodia and 4 representatives of NRAI (National Restaurant Association of India), and attended by about 25 people including the Excise Commissioner, representatives from water and fire departments, several positive decisions were taken immediately while others have been earmarked for inclusion in the next policy. Some have been left open for internal discussion while a few have been rejected, being not practical or unsafe for the public.

Service of Full bottles has been allowed at the table. Additional dispensing counters have been allowed in the licensed premises without additional fees. Easy transfer of licenses to different premises of the same company and also to another company at the same premise has been permitted. Branding will be permitted within the licensed premises. The Dy. CM Sisodia agreed to give concession, rebate or discount on the sale price of liquor under Rule 53 (1) of Excise by amending Rules of 2010. This is a major step in helping to liquidate stocks and sales.

Would you believe the businesses were not allowed to play all types of music in their premises?? Well, all types of music including DJs, Live Bands and Karaoke will be now permitted.  

Another important step is the reduction of drinking age from 25 to 21 years for hard liquor and 18 years for beer/wine. It has been agreed partly, which implies that we can soon see the age reduction from 25 years to a saner 21 years. (delWine has been supportive for 21 years as a first step for liquor and 18 years for beer and wine, with a provision of 16 years when in the company of parents-editor). The Excise has done away with the abolition of the liquor store concept. Stocks may be kept anywhere in the licensed premises.

Do you know that the Excise license fee for restaurants is automatically increased by 10% every year? This practice is to be discontinued in future.

The government has agreed to consider the restaurant purchase of anything that costs above Rs. 1000 in multiple of 3 bottles rather than one full case as present. The government has agreed to relook at the label registration charges like done in Punjab though the meeting listed only beer. One hopes wine was not short-changed by the NRAI. The department also agreed to examine the possibility of returning unsold stocks back to the distributor, a practice followed by most regions in India. Operating times have been extended on Friday- Sunday to 3 am to keep in line with Noida at 4 am and Gurgaon at 3 am.

The department promised to look favourably at permitting service in open areas, balconies, verandas etc. without any additional fees. This is the crying need of the hour with Covid still scoring high on the disruption scale. Though the Excise Department said it would examine the recommendations of NRAI, South Delhi Municipal Corporation issued a Notification yesterday, giving the conditions under which it will allow the use of this additional land and demanding its piece of flesh. Apparently, these corporations are as stretched as the restaurants and need additional funds.

Excise License will not be linked to Police, Tourism etc., cutting down on bureaucracy, though permission from the fire department will still be mandatory. However, the Government has not agreed to grant permission for hosting events in unlicensed areas. Liquor service in food courts and kiosks also stays banned.  

Department Store ban continues

L-12/L-12F license of all departmental stores were closed w.e.f.20.12.2019 and the license fee was to be refunded. Revised terms and conditions for grant of new licenses were to be framed by the Excise Department in the next Excise Policy to make it fool-proof against misuse. Some petitioners approached the High Court but the plea was rejected on September 10 this year on the ground that this was a legal administrative order and the Delhi Government was within its right to take the appropriate decision.

This had been one of the most progressive policies announced by the Excise earlier. Unfortunately, some people misused the privilege granted and the whole Retail sector has suffered due to a few black sheep.

Progressive step by Delhi Government

According to Reports, it had been a very progressive meeting and the restaurants should have less reasons to worry about and stand on their feet once again. They would surely appreciate the gesture from the government and would leave no stones unturned to prove the government right.

Subhash Arora

South Delhi Municipal Corporation

 

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