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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Thursday, December 24 2009. 10:22

Barista Café turning into Wine Bar

The window panes of a few Barista cafés are about to be frosted because of the requirement of liquor excise license the first one of which was procured in October for the Defence Colony store in Delhi where they launched coffees spruced up with liquors and liqueurs last month and also started offering wine and beer.

As you enter Italy, what strike you instantly are not only the beautiful old monuments, but also innumerable number of bars on every street corner. As you enter one, you find a man or a woman behind a corner, usually multi-tasking with a big coffee machine-churning out different forms of coffee- mostly espresso. Italians need a booster shot of the single-sip espresso every few hours. The person behind the ‘bar’ counter is known as a barista. The male is known as il barista while the woman is la barista.

Amit Judge stuck a goldmine when he decided to start a chain of espresso coffee bars in 1997 when the concept was just getting popular and decided to christen it Barista-with ony the name that sounded  Italian. The all-Indian business with coffee beans from the South India and concept from Italy worked wonders for him and he made a cool packet when he sold a part to Tata and later when the Italians could not stay away from the lucrative business, Lavazza stepped in and eventually bought the chain and it became Barista Lavazza.

A barista in Italy does not blink an eyelid when a customer wants a glass of wine or likes his coffee spruced up when he is in a leisurely mood. Whether Starbuck copied the idea from Italy a few months ago or Lavazza had the Italian model in mind, may not be authenticated but soon after Starbuck announced opening a bar in Seattle, serving wine and beer, Barista Lavazza got into the act and voilá, we had the desi version of an Italian bar too.

Vishal Kapoor, all India Marketing Head does not agree that the company stole the idea from Starbucks. ‘Our present owners are Italians and they also have a chain of retail stores with a similar concept,’ he says, adding that the license has also been applied for the Khan Market store which would start selling wine etc.from next month.

Sanjay Coutinho, COO, Barista Lavazza, had reportedly informed DNA India recently that select outlets in Bangalore and Mumbai will serve wine and beer by March, 2010. It must have worked out the feasibility but it has announced the plans to have 25 such outlets in the future.

First one in Mumbai should be ready for opening in the Jet Airways departure area in the domestic terminal in January, indicates Vishal. The evaluations are going in for Bangalore and since the process of getting a license is more complex in that state, it may take a while longer.

The company has an exclusive tie up with Sula for wine and Foster for beer. For the same price of Rs.229 one can have a choice of a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, Satori Merlot, Chenin Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc. A pint sells for Rs.449. Sula Brut costs Rs.549 for a pint and a reasonable Ras.1099 per bottle. The store does not clarify the size of the Pint; the American Pint is 473 ml while the UK Pint is 568 ml. The size of a wine bottle is 750 ml. Vishal said that the size for Pint was 375 ml, which means half the bottle. It appears the store needs to clarify the measure of each glass and the Pint of wine.

Wine does appear to be lower down their priority. The agreement with Sula would allow them to sell the imported wines in their portfolio but ‘during the trial period, we plan to sell only their domestic wines.’ While the coffee concoctions are doing decently well, followed by beer ‘which people are more familiar with’., it appears people are not yet clear about wines, opines Vishal.

The attractive Menu also focuses on coffee, ten varieties of which are invitingly showcased on the 10 pages whereas wine, beer and the rest are all in a cluster in a single page. ‘We are a coffee company and don’t want take our focus away from coffee,’ he says by way of reasoning.

How do they manage to stay clear of the excise technicalities? ‘We are very meticulous in following the rules- frosting the glasses being just one of them, he says. We do not openly display wines or any of the ‘mixers’ and the ‘baristas’ have clear instructions to check the ID if there is any doubt about the age of the customer, or they may lose their job. ‘We do not have any intention of selling hard liquor at all,’ he adds.

Even though the real estate costs are negligible in case of Barista, the annual license costs are very high. "The licence fee is very high in Mumbai and Bangalore (around Rs 350,000) whereas in Delhi it is far more affordable (around Rs 100-120,000), reportedly says Sanjay. Only time will tell if and when the concept which is undergoing trials will be successful and widely accepted.



Vinaya Byndoor Says:

Hi, I would like to know how to obtain a Wine/Beer License in Bangalore. I am looking at starting a Steak House with Beer and Wine.Been hunting for information on this, for quite sometime now.Would be really helpful if you can throw some light on this. And i would also like to know, if there are any short term courses in India for Wine tasting, which i have been wanting to go for. THanks. Regards, VInaya

Posted @ March 17, 2011 10:38


Subhash Arora Says:

Alok, I couln't agree with you more. Unfortunately, the impression I got was that their focus is really on spruced up coffees like Irish Coffee. Wine and beer are incremental; by the way beer is currently doing better. For instance, Sula's agreement allows them to sell even their imported wines- Hardy's and Pierre Maison appear to be good candidates. But they are sticking to just four basic domestic labels and the programme is still on an experimental basis. Both in Mumbai and Bangalore wine licenses are very cheap and as you say, maybe they should go to the drawing boards and check the viability of selling only wine rather than expect people to trade up in the coffeee segment, at this point. With practically no real estate cost, they are better equipped than anyone else to capitalise on the younger and captive market to sell wine. Can you imagine the power and reach they could have to promote wines and make money too! Subhash

Posted @ December 26, 2009 12:27


Alok Chandra Says:

The cost of 'Wine Tavern' licence in Bangalore is just Rs. 1,000 at present - perhaps Barista should start with just wine here.

Posted @ December 26, 2009 10:48


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