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Delhi restaurants say cheers to the new ‘progressive’ excise policy



With the government exiting the liquor business in Delhi, and the new excise policy having come into effect, wining and dining in Delhi is all set to shift, especially as 850 swanky walk-in liquor vends become the focal point of alcohol dispensing for both gastropubs, restaurants and individual buyers. As restaurant owners in Delhi still await clarity on liquor prices, reduced drinking age limit, and being open till 3am, as the new policy allows, they call the new excise regime a “progressive” one. Yet to be implemented, the new policy has the F&B industry still tinkering with its nuts and bolts.

Stock as per demand

“We still haven’t covered our Covid-induced losses, but this policy will help, because now I can order limited liquor. Initially I had to buy whole cases, now I can procure just a bottle or two of what’s in less demand among diners. So, I can maintain my cash flows accordingly,” says Satyajit Dhingra, Chief Regional Officer – North of Impresario Handmade Restaurants, the parent company of SOCIAL and Smoke House Deli.

Target customer aged 21-25

Arjun Dawar, owner of Uncultured and 1 Oak Cafe And Bar, says the concept of partying in Delhi will change. He says: “One thing that is done is reducing age limit and allowing it to be open till 3 am. Running a business till late would do us good. What used to happen is people used to come to dine-in, and then go somewhere where they could party till late. We lost customers, it hampered business, but now that partying money is more likely to be spent at the dine-in place itself, since it’s open. As we’d be allowed to serve till late night, we’d be able to cut down some Covid-19 losses. Also, the age group between 21-25 is a good spender now, so we can target those customers.”

Multiple bars in same space

Vikramjit Roy, co-founder of The Tangra Project says: “Holistically, it is much more progressive that what existed earlier. Now, alcohol can also be served in outside areas. If you had a large restaurant and wanted more than one bar dispensing liquor, earlier it was not permissible, but now it is.”

Hefty side-costs to remain open till 3 am

Mentioning a big con, Roy says: “The ‘open to 3 am’ bit is advantageous to a certain category of restaurants. It’s unclear as to how restaurants inside malls can be open till 3 am at no-cost. Inside a mall, it’s not possible that the mall complex would keep all its facilities like elevators, escalators, washrooms and parking open till 3 am. If it is, it will come at a hefty cost. Unless you are a stand-alone restaurant in a stand-alone space, staying open till 3 am comes with other factors.”

A change in license fee: For the good, for the bad

Varun Puri, cofounder of Duty Free Bar, which has outlets in Delhi, Gurugram and Noida explains: “The license fee have been revised according to the total restaurant area. Under 1000 square feet, the fee is ₹five lakh, from 1000-2500 sq feet it is ₹15 lakh and above 2500 sq ft, it is ₹25 lakh. For some, the fee was increased, but for someone sitting in Khan Market with a 900 sq feet space, the license fee is just ₹five lakh annually! So, it goes both ways. The new policy is a very progressive policy and was the need of the hour, it was last revised in the Capital for the first time after 1998.”

Explaining how procurement will work, he adds: “As a restauranter, since I have to procure supplies from a liquor shop, I will look for the one which offers me the best price. If there is an offer I receive, I’d pass on the benefit to the consumer in the form of price.

A master move

Calling the policy “a master move”, Lokesh Sukhija, who owns Lord of the Drinks and Openhouse, among other spaces, says: “The new policy will stop alcohol pouring illegally in the city, due to the price difference of liquor between Gurugram and Noida”.

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