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Make it large: Delhi restaurants cheer new policy



NEW DELHI: As the new excise policy comes into effect, every restaurant messaging group is abuzz with talk about the ease of getting liquor licence, permissions to use open areas in eateries, regularised licence fees based on area rather than seats, serving alcohol in bottle at the table and operating till 3am and eventually reducing drinking age to 21 years.

The National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) has held multiple meetings with various authorities about the industry’s concerns, and its past and incumbent president have termed the new policy as “pathbreaking”. With the new policy having a clause reducing the number of dry days as in Haryana, Punjab and UP, the city’s restaurants can serve alcohol after 5pm even on Republic Day and Independence Day. Permission to transfer the liquor licence to another company on the same premises and allowing 5-star hotels to serve alcohol all 24 hours have also been welcomed.

With the new policy coming into effect from Wednesday, NRAI hosted a virtual session with restaurateurs to inform them of what to expect when migrating to the new excise regime. Restaurateur Rahul Singh of Beer Café said the new policy would mean more liquor retailers spread evenly across the city rather than being clustered in some pockets. He said the policy also inspired the opening of premium liquor stores that would bring in more brands to the city.

Singh added that with no compulsion on restaurants to buy from select people or in a particular quantity, eateries can now buy from local liquor vendors — even a single bottle if needed rather than in bulk as earlier. This, he said, would enable smaller establishments to improve their offerings.

Getting an excise licence has also become easier and quicker. “With its huge population, Delhi only has 516 licensed places serving alcohol,” said Singh. “Under the new policy, within a year the city can have over 2,000.”

Restaurateurs were of the view that proper implementation of the new policy would lead to bars staying open till late and more people drinking at safe and licensed spots. Bar owners also rejoiced at having nothing more to do with a daily licence to host events in the open with a flat annual fee now.

However, many restaurateurs and bar owners have faced problems in registering for licences and getting new challans issued online. Many other things also remain unclarified, such when the date from when they can remain open till 3am. They also are unsure if they can procure liquor from anywhere in the city or whether it has to be from a seller in their particular zone. Also, with only 250-odd new shops of the newly licensed 850 opening initially, availability of liquor would be hit across the city. A restaurateur noted too that the new tax regime will cause the prices on the menu to rise.

Khan Market restaurateurs who did not have fire-safe certification and for which some of them were involved in litigation, weren’t able to procure new licences. They hope for clarification on the issue from the authorities at the earliest.

One lingering concern was about the reduction of drinking age to 21. The matter is sub-judice. Since only provisional licences are being issued right now, with the final dependent on site inspections by officials, most business owners desired clear timelines rather than be at the mercy of officials during the festive season.

Sanjeev Goyal of Essex Farms has been in touch with various departments and will update fellow restaurateurs on the legalities and developments to aid them transition to new policy with ease. Both Singh and Goyal said disruptions were normal during policy changes and said things were moving very quickly. Licences were being quickly issued and almost 150 brands were already registered.

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