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Excise takes a hit in Delhi; Political battle between AAP and BJP

• Delhi government discontinues Excise Policy 2021-22 from August 1, 2022

• 468 private liquor shops operating in the city, shut from August 1 as licenses expire on July 31

•  Mad rush at liquor vends as supply chain affected

It is a massive political battle out in the National capital between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the casualty has been the liquor industry. While the battle rages on, there is short supply of liquor and with private vends closing down, there is mad rush for liquor of whatever that is left.

As such Delhi was experiencing short supply of liquor for some months now, but the government did not really pull up its socks.

While the situation was such, came another shocker for the AAP government when its Chief Secretary on July 8 reported that there has been ‘deliberate and gross procedural lapses to provide post tender undue benefits to liquor licensees for the year 2021-22’. The Chief Secretary’s report also pointed out to prima facie violations of GNCTD Act 1991, Transaction of Business Rules 1993, Delhi Excise Act-2009 and Delhi Excise Rules – 2010. 

Based on the Chief Secretary’s letter and the corruption murmur in the capital, the Delhi Lieutenant Governor,
Vinai Kumar Saxena recommended a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). 

Alcobev industry at its wits end

The alcobev industry which had hailed the Delhi Government’s new Excise Policy 2021-22 is at its wits end with the political battle going on. Many industry experts had hailed the policy but had complained that implementation was the stumbling block.

AAP blames BJP for the crisis

However, the Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi, Manish Sisodia in a press conference has put all the blame on the BJP for the excise crisis, stating that private vendors were threatened by the Enforcement Directorate and the CBI, forcing them to shut shop. The BJP, on the other hand, has alleged that the Delhi Government had doled out licenses to private vendors on a quid-pro-quo basis, charging AAP of large scale corruption. The two parties are leveling charges against each other while the alcobev sector and the end-consumer has to bear it all.

Government vends would be revived: Sisodia

Manish Sisodia said that the government vends would be back from August 1 as private vends were ‘scared’ to venture into this business. The number of government vends, would not exceed 850. Stating that there was an orchestrated campaign by the BJP to fail the new excise policy, he said only 468 shops were running and that number would further reduce drastically from August 1. “Their (BJP) plan is to stop legal sale of liquor and promote illegal sale of liquor in which the BJP has stake of thousands of crores of rupees,” he said and referred to the Gujarat model where there is prohibition, but illegal liquor trade is strong, leading to illicit liquor, consequently to hooch tragedies.

Citing that the AAP government had planned it’s vends to cater to the population without exceeding the number of vends from 850, he cited how in BJP-ruled States the number of vends was higher, thus encouraging liquor trade, both legal and illegal. There was one outlet for over 4,000 people in Gurugram; one for over 12,000 people in Bangalore; one for over 700 people in Goa, while in Delhi it was one outlet for over 22,000 people.

Another reason for the BJP to derail the Delhi policy, he said was as the former feared that the state revenue would jump from `6000 crore to `9,500 crore which would mean the success of the new policy.

BJP holds Sisodia responsible

Meanwhile, the BJP has upped its ante charging the AAP led government of corruption to which the Delhi Chief Minister has termed it as ‘false and that the BJP was afraid of AAP’s growth’. The BJP said the Excise Department, which is headed by Sisodia, reportedly gave a waiver of `144.36 crore to the licensees on the tendered license fee citing pandemic as an excuse. 

Policy was to give enriching customer experience, now going back to government vends

The 2021 policy was to pave the way for a range of sweeping reforms to boost excise revenue, crack down on the liquor mafia and to improve customer experience. The Government wanted to provide a ‘decent standard of customer experience commensurate to the stature of the National Capital’ and one of the most noticeable changes was abolishing the iron grills in front of the shops. The policy amendment also allowed for online sales in sync with the ‘new normal’.  There is no mention of what would happen to online sales, considering that the supply chain itself is adversely affected.

Framework for grant of licenses

The process of granting of the license was to ensure equitable coverage so that there is no instance of un-served and underserved areas in Delhi including Non-Conforming Areas. The number of retail liquor vends had been limited to 849, including five super premium retail vends, but absolutely no Government owned liquor vends for IMFL/FL.

The policy had ended on May 31 but extended by two months offering the retail licensees chance to renew their licenses paying fees on the pro rata basis for the extra period. However, many license holders did not opt for the extension and shut shops as they were already finding it difficult to reach break even after paying high license fees, some liquor traders have claimed.

Then there was the issue of some retailers giving massive discounts up to 40% to consumers while some big players offered ‘buy one, get one free’ schemes. The government intervened and capped the discount at 25%, but some retail shops went beyond that, some in the trade have complained.

Excise policy extant vs Delhi Master Plan rules

Under the excise policy extant, each licensee had to open three stores in each municipal ward. However, out of 272 municipal wards, 100 were non-conforming where the shops could not open due to action by civic bodies against violations of Delhi Master Plan rules, officials said thus leading to inadequate liquor stores.

CIABC hopes the policy will be tweaked

As mentioned there were many good features in the policy but the government failed to implement. The Director General of the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC), Mr. Vinod Giri has said that the industry had taken up the matter with the Delhi Government to reduce the size of the zones as to make the trade viable. He said by doing that it would have reduced the financial stake of licensees, improved loss bearing capacity and prevented monopolies. He attributed the failure of the policy to bureaucratic apathy towards trade, while the policy per se was good, befitting a modern metropolis such as Delhi. He was hopeful that the policy would be tweaked, but right now the political din has taken over.

There have been many such niggling issues that the Delhi Government did not iron out, while it kept patting itself on its back that it had come up with a ‘great policy’ that eliminated corruption and sale of seconds liquor. But the reality on the ground has been different, where actions did not match the words the AAP government kept bandying about. The capital is going to be mired with this controversy for some time now. The alcobev sector awaits new directives, till then the end consumer will have to find ways to quench his or her thirst.

Delhi govt. allows city bars to stay open till 3 am

With Delhi showing the way will Mumbai follow suit. Perhaps the commercial capital of India will want the city to mix business with pleasure. Additional taxes will help boost the government finances.

The Delhi government has granted permission to all pubs and restaurants serving liquor to stay open till 3am — a move aimed at elevating the Capital’s nightlife, which could help revive the hospitality industry that is still reeling from the pandemic, and increasing employment opportunities.

A formal order is likely to be issued soon, people familiar with the matter said, adding that the government is coordinating with Delhi Police and other agencies for the safe implementation of the new timings. Most pubs and restaurants, barring some exceptions, are currently allowed to stay open till 1am.

Though Delhi’s new excise policy was implemented on November 17, 2021, the change in operating hours will not kick in until a specific order is issued. Though Delhi’s new excise policy was implemented on November 17, 2021, the change in operating hours will not kick in until a specific order is issued.

The Delhi government has granted permission to all pubs and restaurants serving liquor to stay open till 3 am — a move aimed at elevating the Capital’s nightlife, giving a shot in the arm to the hospitality industry that is still reeling from the pandemic, and increasing employment opportunities.

Zorawar Kalra, MD, Massive Restaurants says that it will have a huge positive impact on the entire industry and the economy of the city as all stakeholders will benefit.

The government benefits due to added tax and excise collections. The employees benefit due to added shifts requiring additional people. The customers benefit as they get vibrant nightlife and the freedom to dine at whatever time they choose. And the industry benefits due to the potential of added revenue.

Abhinav Jindal, CEO & Founder, Kimaya Himalayan Beverages had this to say “Delhi Government’s recent announcement for restaurants and bars to remain open till 3 am is an appreciated move showcasing Delhi as a progressive city on the world map. We welcome this decision as a part of the industry.

This cosmopolitan city will allow people to enjoy themselves at their convenience without rushing due to time restrictions. Moreover, it will not only encourage and provide ease of doing business in the city, but will also add up to the revenues of the hard-hit HORECA industry which sees newer opportunities after two years of the pandemic.

In addition to this, this will also help us all promote responsible drinking among consumers. They will not be under the pressure of finishing drinks, rather enabling them to enjoy for longer hours and responsibly. Further enhancing experience for consumers and industry. Look forward to witnessing this positive change in Delhi’s nightlife!”

In an official government note, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, who holds the excise portfolio, asked the department recently to extend the closing time of restaurants, and to ensure that no establishment is subjected to harassment if it stays open till 3am.

“As part of our policy of ease of doing business and also to bring some cultural and nightlife activity in the national capital, which will further enhance the employment opportunity of our people, the Delhi government approved the New Excise Policy in November 2021 allowing the operating timings of restaurants up to 3am in consonance with the operational timings of NCR cities including Gurugram and Noida. The final implementation is being coordinated with the other agencies including Delhi Police,” read the file noting signed by Manish Sisodia.

“In the meantime, the excise department of Delhi, for all practical purposes, [is] to consider the closing time of restaurants as 3am, and no restaurant will be subject to any harassment on account of operation up to 3am,” the note added.

Among NCR cities, Gurugram allowed pubs to remain open 24×7 while in Noida, pubs can operate till 2am. In Gurugram, pubs were allowed to allowed to open till 6 am last year but the new policy announced by the Haryana government allows such outlets to remain open 24×7. In Noida, since April 2019, all pubs can operate till 1am and this can be extended to 2 am for a fee.

Though Delhi’s new excise policy was implemented on November 17, 2021, the change in operating hours will not kick in until a specific order is issued. For example, another key change in the policy — lowering the drinking age from 25 to 21 — is yet to be implemented because the Delhi government is yet to amend the Delhi Excise Act.

While Delhi Police has not issued an official response, a senior officer said they were not aware of any such order yet. “The Delhi government has not consulted with the Delhi Police while issuing the said order. When the order was notified, the Delhi Police had raised concerns related to law and order, traffic disorder, as well as safety and security of citizens, especially women,” said a senior officer, who is aware of the matter.

There have been demands to extend the operating hours since the excise policy was implemented last November, and a group of representatives of the National Restaurant Association of India met Sisodia recently to urge the government to push the change through.

“Restaurants have already paid the excise fee as per the new policy, but continue to be restricted to the old operating timings – leading to huge business losses in this critical recovery phase for the industry. Non-implementation of this most important change is putting the industry into much deeper distress than before. This will surely negate the gains that are expected from the reforms undertaken by the Delhi government,” said the NRAI representation submitted to Sisodia.

According to Rahul Singh, trustee of NRAI, restaurants not serving liquor in Delhi are allowed to operate 24 hours if they so choose, but restaurants serving liquor operate with an L-17 licence, which only permits the service of liquor in independent restaurants till 1 am.

To be sure, the 24-hour service of liquor is allowed in restaurants inside five-star hotels, and those located in the arrival or departure terminals of IGI airport.

Restaurants serving liquor in Delhi need multiple licences from different agencies to operate in Delhi, but only the excise and police licences specify timing restrictions. The health, and shop and establishment licences given by the municipal corporations, the food safety licence given by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, and the fire licence given by Delhi Fire Services, don’t have any timing specifications.

Restaurateurs welcomed the Delhi government’s move

“Delhi is truly a world city, the capital of our nation, and the most visited city too. Tourists as well as the residents truly deserve a global experience. With longer office working hours and the commute, there is always a paucity of time for patrons to have a relaxed evening. Extending service of liquor in a restaurant will provide relief from binge drinking. This will increase jobs in the hospitality sector, and more revenues to the city’s exchequer. While some will question the law-and-order aspects, one has to realise that when there are people on the street and the city is vibrant, there is less crime. Look at examples of global cities and even our own airports, railway stations which operate 24/7,” NRAI’s Rahul Singh said.

Sanjeev Mehra, president of Khan Market Traders’ Association, however, cautioned against the move. “It will also not lead to any increase in business for many of the regular traders and shop owners. But the move will definitely put additional burden on Delhi Police, which is already overburdened, and may lead to increase in law-and-order issues,” he said.

Meanwhile, the BJP slammed the Delhi government’s move. “The new excise policy is going to destroy the future of Delhi’s youth. Permitting restaurants to serve liquor till 3am is nothing but promoting use of alcohol among people. It may also lead to law-and-order situation in the capital,” said Ramvir Singh Bidhuri, leader of opposition in Delhi assembly. Delhi satellites Noida and Gurugram come under Uttar Pradesh and Haryana respectively, and both states are ruled by the BJP.

No discounts or offers on Alcohol in Delhi says Excise Department

Following complaints of congestion outside vents and the ongoing danger of COVID-19, the excise commissioner of Delhi advised liquor outlets in the city on Monday to cease giving discounts and rebates on alcohol brands. In an order, the government urged licensees to stop offering concessions, rebates, or discounts and threatened action against shops that did.

Crowds were observed thronging the vends as booze stores offered discounts and incentives such as ‘buy one get one free.’ There were also reports of law-and-order difficulties, and police were sent in to quell the mob. People in Jagatpuri, where a liquor store refused discounts, had lately resorted to throwing stones, breaking the shop’s glass panes, and injuring the employees.

“It has been brought to the notice of the excise department that as a result of discounts being offered by the licensees through their retail vends, instances were reported of large crowds gathering outside the liquor stores leading to law-and-order problems and causing inconvenience to locals,” the order by the excise commissioner stated.

As a result of liquor retailers lowering prices on various brands of alcohol by up to 40%, many consumers began acquiring and storing significant quantities, believing that the programmes would be discontinued at the end of the current fiscal year. According to the ruling, the Excise Department also learned that the programmes and discounts given at liquor stores were contributing to “unhealthy” market practises. The Covid pandemic is not ended, and the risk of infection remains, according to the directive, which adds that large crowds are expected to exacerbate the issue in Delhi.

“Commissioner Excise hereby orders that all L7Z licensees shall neither give concession, rebate or discount on the maximum retail price of liquor and hereby directs all L7Z licensees to strictly abide by Rule 54(3) of Delhi Excise Rules 2010. If any such instance of discount/rebate/ concession is brought to the knowledge of the undersigned, action as per Rules and Act as well as penal action as per tender document will be taken against defaulting licensees,” read the order.

The intent of the government in allowing discounts by retailers was to promote consumer choice and healthy competition and determination of price by market forces, it said. “The discounting of this nature was not the objective of the government while permitting the discounts in the new excise regime. The licensees are seen indulging in various promotional activities through social media and banners, hoardings outside the stores which is a non-permissible activity under the Delhi Excise Act, 2009 and Delhi Excise Rules, 2010.”

Last year, the Delhi Government adopted the Excise Policy 2021-22, as well as the terms and circumstances for the award of several kinds of licences. On November 17, 2021, the policy went into force. According to the Excise Department’s tender document for issuing 849 retail liquor licences, licensees are permitted to provide a rebate/discount/concession on the maximum retail price of liquor set by the Excise Commissioner. According to the ruling, under clause 15.2 of the tender document, the Department of Excise may, in its sole discretion, but without any obligation to do so, update, revise, or supplement the information in the tender document issued last year.

Oaksmith launched in Delhi

Oaksmith, India’s First Truly International Blended Whisky, crafted by Suntory’s Chief Blender Shinji Fukuyo, creator of iconic Japanese whiskies Hibiki and Yamazaki – combines the finest Scotch Malts with the smoothest American Bourbons using world class Japanese blending techniques, bringing the best of East and West to Indian consumers

.

Beam Suntory, a world leader in premium spirits, has launched Oaksmith, India’s first International Blended Whisky in Delhi. After a successful launch in December 2019 in Maharashtra and Telangana followed by rapid expansion in West Bengal, Goa, Assam, Chandigarh, UP and Karnataka, the iconic brand is now available in Delhi with both blend variants – ‘Oaksmith Gold’ and ‘Oaksmith International’. The brand has delivered 300,000 cases since its launch in India.

Oaksmith has been created by world-renowned Shinji Fukuyo, Chief Blender, Suntory, the founding house of Japanese Whiskies – with world-class Japanese craftsmanship, blending high quality Scotch Malt whiskies and smoothest American Bourbons to build a recipe that is unique and designed taking inspiration from the Indian palate. From seed to sip, the whisky is meticulously crafted to achieve a blend like no other resulting in a bold spirit that is rich on the nose yet approachable and well balanced with a bright, smooth and unexpectedly long finish. Launch of Oaksmith Gold and Oaksmith International whisky in Delhi is key to Beam Suntory’s growth strategy, and this expansion signifies the importance of India to the global spirits company.

“We are delighted with the response that the blends of Oaksmithhave received from consumers since it’s launch. The growing premiumisation of the Indian market and the appreciation for finely crafted spirits made this the right time to expand the brand across various markets in India, finally bringing it to the nation’s capital – New Delhi. Delhi’s rich history blended with modernity adorned with touches of its traditional heritage attracts people from across the country and the world. We see a growing opportunity for high quality, world class spirit brands and look forward to receiving the same overwhelming appreciation for Oaksmith Gold and Oaksmith International here,” says Neeraj Kumar, Managing Director of Beam Suntory India.

Ambrosia Awards 2021

The 14th edition of INDSPIRIT 2021, organized by Ambrosia, the wine and spirit magazine, held on December 17th 2021 in New Delhi, came as a much needed breather to the alcobev industry. Industry leaders and other stakeholders descended upon Hotel Andaz for IndSpirit 2021, primarily to ‘reconnect’ with the alcobev community.

INDSPIRIT 2021, a mix of conference, exhibition and awards, was a runaway success, not just because ofthe huge number of attendees, but because it set a ‘positive tone’ for the industry.

The Managing Director of SAP Media Worldwide, Mr. Trilok Desai, set the tone for INDSPIRIT 2021 by talking about how the alcobev sector was bouncing back with a positive outlook, after a lull of almost two years adversely affected by the pandemic.

Braving the Delhi winter, industry stakeholders turned out in good number, endorsing the spirit of Ambrosia to move on, overcome the challenges and grab the opportunities. The coming together of the industry was heartening to note for a sector which has so much to offer, thanks to quality enhancements, innovation and camaraderie. Cheers to the Alcobev sector, INDSPIRIT and Ambrosia for saying ‘goodbye to 2021’ and welcoming 2022 with a lot of hope.

Ambrosia Awards 2021 Winners

Category – Beer

BEST MILD BEER

Tag Premium Lager Beer

BEST BEER – STRONG CATEGORY

Bira 91 Gold Wheat Strong Beer

BEST BEER – STRONG CATEGORY

Sterren 8 Premium Strong Beer

Category – Wine

BEST POPULAR WHITE WINE

Fumé Blanc

BEST PREMIUM WHITE WINE

Soma Chardonnay Reserve

BEST PREMIUM INDIAN RED WINE

Reveilo Reserve Syrah

BEST POPULAR IMPORTED RED WINE

Born West Cabernet Sauvignon

BEST SUPER PREMIUM IMPORTED RED WINE

Robert Mondavi Private Selection Cabernet Sauvignon

BEST SPARKLING WINE

Casablanca Spumante Sparkling Wine

Category – Vodka

BEST POPULAR VODKA

One More Pure Craft Vodka

BEST PREMIUM VODKA

Smoke Classic Vodka

BEST SUPER PREMIUM VODKA

Stolichnaya Premium Vodka

BEST SUPER PREMIUM VODKA

Juno Premium Pink Flavoured Vodka

BEST PREMIUM FLAVOURED VODKA

Magic Moments Verve Cranberry Tease Premium Flavoured Vodka

BEST SUPER PREMIUM FLAVOURED VODKA

Absolut Grapefruit Vodka

Category – Gin

BEST PREMIUM GIN

Beefeater London Dry Gin

BEST SUPER PREMIUM GIN

Roku Japanese Craft Gin

BEST FLAVOURED GIN

Edinburgh Gin Rhubarb And Ginger

Category – Rum

BEST POPULAR BLACK RUM

Commander N Chief Caribbean Gold XXX Rum

BEST PREMUIM BLACK RUM

1965 Spirit Of Victory Premium XXX Rum

BEST PREMIUM RUM

Amrut Two Indies Rum

BEST WHITE RUM

Aspira Lemon Twist Rum

Category – Brandy

BEST POPULAR BRANDY

British Empire Brandy

BEST PREMIUM BRANDY

Courrier Napoleon Finest French Brandy

Category – Whisky

BEST IMFL REGULAR WHISKY

Royal Green Whisky

BEST IMFL POPULAR WHISKY

Oaksmith International Blended Whisky

BEST IMFL SEMI PREMIUM WHISKY

Single Reserva Premium Whisky

BEST IMFL SEMI PREMIUM WHISKY

Whistler Blended Malt Whisky

Best IMFL PREMIUM WHISKY

Signature Premier Grain Whisky

BEST FLAVOURED WHISKY

Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Apple Flavoured Whisky

BEST BLENDED SCOTCH BII

Grant’s Distinction Blended Scotch Whisky

BEST SCOTCH (BIO) ABOVE 12 YRS WHISKY

Dewar’s 15 Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky

BEST INDIAN SINGLE MALT

The Three Monkeys Indian Single Malt Whisky

BEST SINGLE MALT

Bowmore Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky – Aged 12 Years

PACKAGING AWARDS INDSPIRIT 2021

BEST PACKAGING AWARD (UNIT PACK)

United’s Epitome Reserve Rare Grain Whisky

BEST PACKAGING AWARD (UNIT PACK)

Glenfiddich Limited Edition Gift Pack

BEST PACKAGING AWARD (GRAPHICS)

8 PM Premium Black Whisky Cricksaw and Howzat

BEST PACKAGING AWARD (IDEA)

Monkey 47 Schwarzwald Dry Gin

BEST PACKAGING AWARD (BEER CANISTER)

Bira 91 Gold Wheat Strong Beer

BEST PACKAGING AWARD (CANNISTER)

Morpheus Blue XO Premium Brandy

BEST PACKAGING AWARD (BEER BOTTLE)

Sterren 8 Premium Strong Beer

BEST PACKAGING AWARD (BOTTLE SHAPE)

Roku Japanese Craft Gin

BEST PACKAGING AWARD (BOTTLE SHAPE)

Bacardi Reserva Ocho Aged 8 Years

INDIVIDUAL AWARDS INDSPIRIT 2021

FASTEST GROWING BRAND

Rockford Reserve Whisky & Rockford Classic Whisky

EXCELLENCE IN BRAND PROMOTION AND MARKETING

1965 Spirit Of Victory Premium XXX Rum

EXCELLENCE IN BRAND PROMOTION AND MARKETING

Oaksmith God International Blended Whisky

EXCELLENCE IN RETAIL AND DISTRIBUTION

STAR Agencies

NEW PRODUCT OF THE YEAR

United’s Epitome Reserve Rare Grain Whisky

SPECIAL FELICITATION FOR COMPLETEING 11 YEARS

Hospitality Purchasing Managers & Forum (HPMF)

START-UP OF THE YEAR

Kimaya Himalayan Beverages

ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR

Ankur Jain

Founder & CEO

Bira 91

BUSINESS LEADER OF THE YEAR

Abhishek Khaitan

Managing Director

Radico Khaitan Limited

LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT OF THE YEAR

Shobhan Roy

Delhi new excise policy lowers drinking age to 21, only 3 dry days

The Delhi Government on March 22, 2021 came out with a new excise policy which is expected to bring about radical changes in the sale and consumption of liquor in the national capital. The headline grabbing announcement has been the government’s decision to lower the drinking age from 25 to 21; keeping bars and pubs open till 3 a.m and bringing down the number of dry days from 21 to 3, all of which are expected to shore up excise revenues from `5,068.7 crores to `7,651 crores.

The government’s decision to rework the policy was necessary as the 2009 excise policy seemed outdated and the rollout of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) had taken away a chunk from the state government’s excise kitty.

The Delhi Deputy Chief Minister, Manish Sisodia said another important decision taken is that the Delhi government will not run any liquor outlet. Presently, about 40% of the 850 odd outlets in the capital are privately run, the remaining by government. The state-run outlets were indulging in ‘brand pushing’ and there was pilferage in revenues, thus affecting the coffers. This year, the government will also not give licence for opening any new liquor retail outlets, while it will shut down those which are running without licence.

2,000 illegal outlets in the capital

The Deputy Chief Minister said the liquor mafia needed to be checked and mentioned that while the government had approved 850 liquor stores, the liquor mafia has been running about 2,000 illegal outlets and with impunity over the years. “In the last two years, over 7 lakh illegal liquor bottles have been seized, 1939 people arrested.” There was a skewed distribution network – 20% of the areas in the city are over-served, while 58% are under-served, giving room for the liquor mafia to rule.

Diageo welcomes progressive excise policy

The industry has welcomed the new policy. One of them to react first has been Diageo India’s Managing Director and CEO, Mr. Anand Kripalu, who said “Diageo India welcomes the progressive Excise Policy reforms announced by the Delhi Government yesterday. The new Excise Policy keeps the consumer at its heart, enabling their access to good quality brands in significantly safer and enhanced purchase and consumption environments. We welcome the many consumer-friendly measures including bringing the legal drinking age in Delhi at par with neighbouring states, introduction of “age-gating” at restaurant & bars, equitable geographic spread of retail outlets in the State and 100% private retail. The government’s mission to tackle the scourge of illicit liquor trade will ensure safety of citizens while minimising revenue losses of the government.”

New rules for liquor outlets

The new guidelines have factored in the size and location of liquor shops for equitable distribution in the city. The minimum space for an outlet now is 500 sq ft and that the windows of such stores should not face the road. “Most government-vend outlets had a jail-like environment and this would go.” It is the responsibility of the shop owner to ensure discipline and decorum in the premises of liquor shops, ensuring that no public drinking took place either inside or outside the liquor stores. Those below the age of 21 will not be allowed inside liquor stores.

The Delhi government had constituted a three-member panel led by the Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia with Kailash Gehlot and Satyendra Jain as members to formulate the new excise policy. The panel had made several sweeping recommendations, all of which have been adopted by the government.

The Group of Ministers committee suggested allocation of liquor vends through a lottery system whereas the liquor mafia has been lobbying to keep e-auction system where they could use money and muscle power. The recommendations of the committee included:

Registration of Brands

Whiskey – The committee suggested that brands selling below the retail price of `601 per bottle would be registered in Delhi only if the brand and its variants have sold a minimum of 1,00,000 (one lakh) cases each in minimum of five states excluding Delhi which have IMFL industry (Indian Made Foreign Liquor) higher than Delhi and a minimum of 10 lakh cases volume including CSD (Canteen Stores Department) in the previous year all over India, excluding Delhi. For brands with retail price of over `601 per bottle, no sales figures will be required for registration of the brand.

Rum/Vodka – The committee suggested that brands selling below the retail price of `501 per bottle would be registered in Delhi only if the brand and its variants have sold a minimum of 10,000 (ten thousand) cases each in a minimum of five states excluding Delhi which have IMFL industry (Indian Made Foreign Liquor) higher than Delhi and a minimum of 1 lakh cases volume including CSD (Canteen Stores Department) in the previous year all over India, excluding Delhi. For brands with a retail price of more than `501 per bottle, no sales figures will be required for registration of the brand.

Beer – Strong Beer – For Beer brands above 5% alcoholic strength and MRP up to `150 per bottle, would be registered in Delhi only if the brand and its variants have sold a minimum of 10,00,000 (Ten Lakh) cases including CSD, but excluding Delhi, all over India, with registration in at least 5 states.

Lager Beer – For Beer brands up to 5 percent alcoholic strength and MRP up to `150 per bottle, would be registered in Delhi only if the brand and its variants have sold a minimum of 5,00,000 (Five Lakh) cases including CSD, but excluding Delhi, all over India, with registration in at least 5 states. For all Beer brands with a retail price of over `150 per bottle, no sales figures will be required for registration of the brand.

Brandy and Gin – For these two products, no sales figure shall be required for registration of brands in Delhi.

This recommendation has been made keeping in view of the cheap brands being manufactured in Delhi’s neighbourhood, which are owned and supplied into Delhi by persons who are already having a number of liquor vends in the capital. Such cheap brands are sold to hapless consumers over the counter by the staff of the liquor vends, denying them quality products as the owner of the liquor vend earns more by selling his self-made product as compared to other quality products.

Steep hike in Licence Fee

The committee proposed raise of licence fee from `8,00,000 (Eight Lakhs) per year to `75,00,000 (Seventy-Five Lakhs) per year. On the other hand, to ensure that the vend owner does not suffer losses due to the steep hike in licence fee, the committee made another recommendation. Till now, the liquor vend owner used to get a profit of `50 to `100 per bottle but the committee has proposed a profit of 8% from the MRP of the product for the vend owner, which will ensure that the hike in licence fee, will compensate the vend owner.

Vend allocation system to be changed

The committee recommended discontinuation of the practise of auto-renewal of licences. Now vends are to be allotted by lottery and no individual would be allotted more than two vends. This has been done to do away with the existing monopoly and cartelisation in the system as at present, there are individuals holding as many as even twenty vends in Delhi

The committee recommended to raise the number of existing 720 liquor vends in Delhi to 916 for its population of about 2 crores. Mumbai has 1190 vends against a population of 1.23 crores and Bangalore has 1794 vends across a population of 1.93 crores.