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Happy hours come to a halt


Liquor, beer sales becoming stagnant in Delhi due to govt policy, court orders

After a few years of substantial growth in excise revenue, Delhi’s liquor and beer sales are becoming stagnant, with government officials and industry representatives saying that a combination of policy and court orders could have killed the buzz.

Data from the Delhi government’s Excise Department accessed by The Hindu show that for the first four-and-a-half months of 2017, sales of Indian-made foreign liquor (IMFL) and beer were a little less than the same period last year.

According to the data, the number of bottles of IMFL and beer sold from January 1 to May 15 this year was 0.86% less than the same period in 2016. Beer alone, however, saw an increase of about 5%.

Excise duty collection

In terms of cases of alcohol sold, there was a 6.38% increase from 2014-2015 to 2015-2016 in consumption of IMFL, country liquor and Indian beer, as per the Delhi Statistical Handbook 2016.

In fact, the excise duty collection, which includes sources other than alcohol, went up by 31% from the previous year, as per the Delhi government’s Budget for 2016-2017.

Government decision

But Delhi government officials say the trend in excise collection has defied expectation. One of the reasons cited is the Aam Aadmi Party government’s decision not to issue any new licences. No new licences have been issued since September 2016, a senior official said.

As a result, the growth in the number of liquor vends, and restaurants and bars that serve alcohol has slowed down.

“Drinking culture”

The decision taken not to issue any new licences is perhaps due to the attack from opposing political parties that accused the government of promoting a “drinking culture” in the city.

The ban on issuing licences has also impacted the revenue of restaurants that were in the process of being set-up.

The hospitality industry in parts of the city has also not had a smooth run in 2017.

Saurabh Tyagi, who manages a lounge in Connaught Place, says they have lost out on a lot of restaurant space after the New Delhi Municipal Council sealed terraces and balcony spaces.

‘Old-world charm’

“Many customers would come to Connaught Place in the winter so that they could enjoy the weather and its old-world charm. With the area closed, we lost not only seating space but clients who would come to enjoy acoustic-music sessions and a drink on the terrace,” said Mr. Tyagi.

Another reason has been the Supreme Court’s decision on December 15, 2016, to ban the sale of alcohol within 500 metres of national highways, and the subsequent decision on March 31 to include restaurants, bars, hotels and cafés under the ban.

The government official said that 50 liquor vends that accounted for ₹150 crore in revenue had closed as a result.

Demonetisation move

The Central government’s demonetisation initiative in November 2016 and its impact over the next few months also hit growth, though sales of liquor did not change much at that time.

Source: The Hindu

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