MUMBAI: The state home department has asked the excise commissioner to direct all stakeholders in the liquor industry to stop home delivery of liquor, a service which was encouraged during the lockdown to ensure social distancing.
The home department’s letter to the commissioner suggests restoration of pre-pandemic practices of sale, thus indirectly putting an end to home delivery of liquor. “Owing to the withdrawal of protocols for Covid-related restrictions, the decision to allow home delivery stands automatically withdrawn as it was meant for meeting social distancing norms during the lockdown period only… all stakeholders should be intimated about this and related actions be taken,” said the letter.
However, the excise department has said the “government will take a call…after considering all legal and social factors” indicating that a rethink on discontinuing the practice is likely. Retailers continue to keep home delivery on and will seek the excise commissioner’s directives before implementing a decision.
Though consolidated data on home deliveries is not available, lakhs of consumers have taken to ordering liquor at home since the pandemic began. Bhavesh Patel, owner of the World of Wines chain, said he has a home delivery database of 9,500 customers at one store alone in Nariman Point. “Thousands of delivery and IT personnel will lose their jobs if home delivery of liquor stops. Our shop, for instance, makes an average 150 daily despatches from Colaba to Andheri. Today’s generation is tech savvy and they prefer to buy online rather than stand in queue at the shop. Online, one can select from a range of options around the clock.”
Patel pointed out that Alcobev (alcohol beverage) retail home delivery was the first non-essential business to be opened up during the pandemic owing to public demand and the need for revenue.
Principal secretary for excise Valsa Nair Singh said home delivery was approved only during the lockdown to ensure social distancing. “However, the government will shortly take a call on the future need to have a policy for home delivery or not after considering all legal and social factors surrounding it,” she said, while speaking to TOI. Meanwhile, excise commissioner Kantilal Umap said the prior position before the first lockdown will be maintained till the time the government takes its final call.