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Online licence renewal a hit with liquor sellers



BENGALURU: The Excise Department’s initiative of introducing an online licence renewal system for liquor shops seems to have come as a relief to liquor shop owners in Bengaluru. Within a month of the system being introduced, 2,506 of the city’s 2,536 liquor shop owners have renewed their permits, with the deadline still 15 days away.

In mid-June, the department introduced the online system for renewing liquor licences of all categories including wine stores, pubs, bars and restaurants. The idea was to streamline and ease the annual renewal process as well to avoid interaction between licence-seekers and excise officials, which was said to be the cause for corruption in the department, particularly during renewal.

Pubs and bar owners ET spoke to welcomed the new system. The process is simpler and it has initiated a change in the system. This should continue, they said.

Karunakara Hegde, a bar owner, said licence renewal is not the only time when liquor store owners come in contact with excise officials. “While the online renewal system has prevented officials from harassing licence seekers to an extent, it is not the end. Shop owners interact with officials at various stages and the harassment will continue when we approach them for other work,” Hegde said.

He said interaction is necessary, for instance, while seeking approval for recruiting employees in liquor stores. Certification of workers in pubs and bars is mandatory every six months. “Any sort of direct interaction must be stopped to bring in transparency, along with amending the Karnataka Excise Act 1965,” Hegde said. Even with the online process, the applicants should submit final documents to the officials in person and get those signed.

Amit Ahuja, a pub owner who has renewed his licence thrice so far, said the latest renewal was his best experience. “It has prevented pub owners from running from pillar to post to submit documents. And, the renewal happened very quickly, within a week’s time of applying,” he said.

Some of the applicants had issues with choosing the category of ownerships. Karthik Shankar, a co-owner of a pub, said the process for partnership-based liquor outlets was challenging. “We are hopeful that the process will be eased by next year.”Ahuja, however, expects the department to train officials rigorously to further smoothen the process. “Officials should have been given time to acquaint themselves with the online process. It appeared as though they too were learning the new system along with us.”

Department joint commissioner Rajendra Prasad told ET the issues will be sorted out by next year. “We had initial glitches in the process but those have been sorted. All applications were processed quickly within the timeframe of one week,” he said.

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