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No beer in Gurugram market as supply line runs into bottleneck



GURUGRAM: Summer is peaking but the supply of beerin the city has almost dried up.
A series of procedural glitches, building up since the beginning of the current fiscal year, has led to a situation where merely 10% of all beer labels is available. With a hot May imminent, the prospect of dry days in the cellar continuing as the mercury soars into the 40s has left restaurateurs and bar owners in the city sweating.

Various hold-ups and snags, like the excise portal (eGRAS) not working in the first half of April, have ultimately led to a delay in re-registration of liquor labels, which is mandatory each year. And without that, the brands cannot be supplied.

The arrest of the Neeraj Sachdeva, owner of Lakeforest Wines that holds the wholesale licence, for allegedly defrauding the Faridabad excise department has complicated matters.

A licensee has to get re-registration of all liquor labels done after paying a fee at the beginning of financial year. There are 1,600 liquor labels and the government earns around Rs 20 crore from re-registration. Supply of beer was affected the most as beer cannot be stored for long.

Rahul Singh, president of National Restaurants Association in India who also owns the Beer Café chain, said till March, there were 38 beer brands available at restaurants in Gurugram.

“On April 1, 2018 with the new excise policy kicking in, the excise portal was not working for two weeks, so we could not order any stock. Now, the portal is working but there are only four beers brands available,” said Singh, adding another four beer brands are expected to be available in next few days.

“We are coming to the end of April. It is the start of summer and all patrons want beer. It’s been a loss of face and revenues,” said Singh.

Excise collector Yogesh Kumar admitted there were “some issues” with imported liquor but blamed it on delay in applications for re-registration of labels. “The licensee applied last Thursday. It should have applied earlier,” said Kumar, adding the department had approved most labels of liquor and all but one label of beer. “There is no delay on the part of the excise department,” said Kumar.

The department has on Friday called a meeting of excise officials and directed them to contact manufact-ures or breweries to understand the cause behind the shortage. Officials attributed the shortage to problems in the supply chain.

Singh they face a similar problem every year in April, mainly due the re-registration policy. “The government should take the process online and allow automatic approval of labels after payment of the fee,” said Singh, calling for a simplification of the process.

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