VISAKHAPATNAM: Malabar House, Hyderabad Blue, British Empire. These names – unheard of until recently — have now flooded the shelves of liquor shops across Andhra Pradesh. Missing from the counters, in turn, are the earlier regulars like Royal Challenge, McDowell’s, Smirnoff, Black Dog to name a few.
And if that’s now enough to kill the guzzlers’ buzz, liquor enthusiasts in the state are being compelled to cough up some big bucks for their alcohol – including for these new, unfamiliar entrants. In many cases, their prices have shot up by 100%.
Reason: An additional retail excise tax now being levied on every bottle of alcohol by the AP government. This amounts to 10% of the issue price (calculated on a bottle’s actual price after adding all other state and central government taxes) of a product.
Result: A 180 ml bottle of cheap whiskey that was earlier available for Rs 70 to Rs 90 now costs anywhere between Rs 150 and Rs 180 in a retail shop and Rs 210 in a bar. Similarly, in the case of medium-range brands the cost has escalated from Rs 150 to Rs 200 (for 180 ml) to Rs 260 to Rs 380.
“The prices of liquor have become extremely high. On top of that, we cannot even buy what we want. None of the brands I used to drink earlier are not available in stores and I am spending 30% extra on unknown brands now,” said a private firm employee, Y Rakesh.
Manager of a bar, B Radha Krishna, said how he regularly has patrons coming up to him asking for their brands, and then walking away disappointed.
“Every day I have people asking for Royal Stag and McDowell which the masses are very familiar with. There is huge demand for these brands but we are helpless as we can only sell what is being supplied by APSBCL,” he said.
Incidentally, this nonavailability of bigger brands has led to rampant smuggling of liquor from other states, say industry insiders. “Despite the cost, many consumers buying this smuggled liquor because they want to drink alcohol of their choice,” said an industry insider.