NEW DELHI: As summer peaks, Rahul Singh, founder and CEO of The Beer Cafe, is grappling with a strange problem. Not a single draught beer brand is available as none is registered in the city even as imported European beers remain in short supply due to geopolitical problems.
National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) has written to the excise department explaining how non-availability of draught beer will be damaging for the industry this summer.
“Since the earlier L2 licence, for supplying directly to restaurants, stands cancelled, no draught beer is available. L1 licence holders are not supplying to L7 licencees as they can’t sell draught beer kegs to consumers in retail. They also don’t have the required storage infrastructure,” added the letter.
The body has requested that supply of draught beer for restaurants should be made direct and delinked from retail vends. It added that in states like Punjab, Haryana and Maharashtra, where restaurants buy from retail, supply of draught beer was done directly from the brewery.
A senior excise department official said the policy was being tweaked to make it comply with the changing scenario. “Once the changes are approved by the government, we will start giving licences to all applicants who meet the criteria. We are planning to open premium showrooms that will only stock high-end liquor,” added the official.
Another official said distributors of some premium alcoholic beverages were waiting for the new excise policy, which came into effect from November 2021, to settle down before registering their brands. “It’s a very progressive and promising liquor policy. We hope to see more brands registering to sell their product in Delhi,” he added.
Sarthak Sidana of Underdoggs admitted to facing issues with draught beer stock and rued liquor stores hadn’t been able to properly manage the demand for pints too.
Non-availability of premium whiskey (18-year-old and above) and imported wines was another issue. Priyank Sukhija, restaurateur and Delhi chapter head of NRAI, said most premium offerings were not available as brands had either not registered or were not available.
Another pressing problem was officially extending operation timings of restaurants till 3am. Sukhija said most outlets paid a higher excise fee hoping for longer operating hours, but were waiting for the department to implement it.
“Extension of operating timings of restaurants up to 3am is important for reviving the economy through increased consumption, creating employment, increasing government revenues and helping the industry revival,” said NRAI.
From reduction of VAT to increasing the lowest slab of area to 1,500 sq feet from the existing 1,000 sq feet for a licence, NRAI has sent its suggestions to the excise department to be incorporated for ease of doing business.
“To assist smaller restaurants in increasing the availability and variety of liquor for customers, the 2021-22 policy allowed L-17 licence holders to purchase single units from L7 retail vends. However, this has not been implemented and a minimum purchase of a full case is needed,” stated the letter signed by Prakul Kumar, secretary general, NRAI.
A restaurateur said since excise licences were due to be renewed in May and some tweaks to the policy were expected to be announced, many brands were waiting for the final announcements before registering. This delay would lead to shortage for the next two months.
The above news was originally posted on timesofindia.indiatimes.com