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Bars question timing of 15% hike in excise licence fee; demand roll back



Hospitality industry associations have opposed the Excise Department’s circular dated April 13 offering exemption from the 15% hike in licence fee if payments are made on or before April 30.

The associations have urged the State government to roll back the hike as their businesses have become unviable amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Last month, the government had announced the hike for renewing the licence for 2020-21. The move was opposed by all trade bodies in the food service sector and a request was made to roll it back.

In a letter addressed to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, the associations said, “This amounts to coaxing everyone to pay the fee in advance at a time when the business is shut under the government order and may effectively not open at least till the end of first quarter of this financial year. Any failure to do so will effectively mean paying a premium of 15% at a time when the business sentiment is at its lowest ebb ever and the industry is seeking urgent relief from both Union and the State governments for its mere survival.”

Joint appeal

All three major trade bodies — The Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI), the National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI), and the Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association — said the government’s move was equivalent to penalising a business for non-timely payment of a fee during the worst crisis that mankind has faced in 100 years.

Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, president, HRAWI, said, “The industry is completely shut, there is no business and we have no income; and it could be a long time in the future before business gets back to normal. We appeal to the State as well as the Central governments to understand our situation. It is not the time for half measures or 15% cuts, but suspension of all statutory fees. The government should proactively take measures to boost business as the hospitality and tourism sector is one of the biggest job generators and contributors to India’s GDP. This notice has come as a shock to us.”

“Our industry was the first to get hit due to the pandemic and business has come to a complete standstill. In such a situation, instead of lending support, they are expecting us continue paying statutory levies as before. This will break our backs,” he added.

‘Move defies logic’

Anurag Katriar, president, NRAI, said, “The decision to hike excise fee at this juncture is totally against the spirit of compassion and defies logic. We are currently shut for business for almost a month and there is no concrete date of resumption in the visible horizon either. Yet, the Excise Department’s insistence to pay the liquor license fee in advance for the full year now or pay 15% more is very unfortunate. I appeal to the government to reverse this decision and allow us to pay pro-rated fee for the next year in easy instalments.”

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