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Eateries can now apply for new liquor licence

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New Delhi: Delhi government’s excise department has decided to ease the process of issuing new licences to restaurants wanting to serve liquor. However, the decision of not allowing any new private liquor vend to come up remains in place.

It is learnt from reliable sources that last year’s decision was reviewed by deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia and the excise department has, accordingly, opened the licence process for restaurants wanting a licence to serve liquor. Last year, when the decision to freeze liquor licence for new private vends, shops in malls and restaurants was taken, the government had stated that it would be open for review in the next fiscal year.

The decision to ease the cap on restaurants was taken last month, sources said. It comes in the backdrop of many petitions by the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) where owners had pointed out the huge losses being suffered by them due to the ban.

Nearly 50 restaurants and liquor vends were also shut after the Supreme Court ordered a ban on liquor vends within 500 metres of all highways from April 1. This brought down the number of authorised liquor serving vends and restaurants considerably.

Delhi government data before the SC order listed 704 restaurants with bar licences, 399 private vends and 170 liquor shops in malls. There are 350 government-run liquor outlets.

Describing the move as a big relief, NRAI president Riyaaz Amlani said more than 50 restaurants had applied for licences last year and invested accordingly. “When the government decided not to issue fresh licences last year, these restaurant owners were adversely impacted. Now, they are hopeful,” Amlani said.

According to sources, the department has also readied the new excise policy for 2017, which is under process for approval.

Every year, the excise policy is reviewed and notified afresh and is ideally supposed to be implemented from the new financial year starting April 1. However, last year, it was finalised around October and only notified partly. It is learnt that the draft policy for 2017 is unlikely to be any different from last year’s policy.

The AAP government had justified the decision to freeze licences on the grounds that the existing number of vendors was enough to meet the city’s demand. It had denied that the move had anything to do with a campaign launched by Yogendra Yadav-led Swaraj Abhiyan, which had alleged that the government was on an overdrive to grant liquor licences.

Source: Times of India

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