NEW DELHI: Government-run liquor stores reopened in the capital after almost 10 months on Thursday as the Delhi government made a transition to the old excise regime. More than 350 retail shops spread across the city, though with fewer brands, started their business on September 1. Customers missed the benefits offered by the Excise Policy 2021-22 – rolled out on November 17, 2021 – which offered attractive rebates and schemes and a better shopping experience due to bigger stores.
After the Excise Policy of 2021-22 ran into trouble following allegations of procedural lapses in its implementation to extend undue benefit to some liquor traders, the Delhi government had announced its withdrawal from September 1 and shifting to the old excise regime. The old regime, however, will remain in force for just six months as the government has already started working on an entirely new policy.
While the government had said that its four corporations will open 500 new shops on September 1, senior excise department officials confirmed that over 440 licences had been given till date and more than 350 shops had already opened.
“The process to give licences to retail shops is ongoing and we will cross the 500 mark within a few days,” said a senior Delhi government official.
Delhi government said that by the end of this year, the city will have 700 shops as promised by the government while announcing the shift to the old regime.
Though some customers rued the availability of fewer brands, especially the premium ones and beer, officials said more brands were being registered by the government. “We have already registered about 400 brands and more are in process. Some companies faced technical issues related to their warehouses. That’s why their brands did not reach the shops. But all those problems are being ironed out,” said another official.
“Almost all popular brands will be back in the coming days. It takes time as supply follows production after a brand is registered,” the official added.
To ensure that there are no supply issues, excise department officials said there were more than 80 lakh bottles available at warehouses, which will take care of a week of the city’s total demand. “All shops collectively have a stock of over 35 lakh bottles, especially those which are fast-moving. The customers will not feel a pinch,” said an official.
The average daily consumption of liquor in the month of September is estimated to be about 40 lakh bottles, officials said.
The industry players said they were hoping that the availability of brands settles down in the next few days. “On the first day of resumption, around 275 outlets restarted the alcobev business. It would take about 7-10 days for the supply to settle down in the proposed 500 outlets,” said Nita Kapoor, CEO, International Spirits and Wine Association of India.
Vinod Giri, director general of the Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies, said he expected the availability to start settling down over the next couple of weeks. He, however, added that shutting down liquor shops at the airport was a jolt and the government needed to find a solution at the earliest.
“The shops at all three domestic terminals have shut down as they were run by private operators. This is ironic as following the success in Delhi, several airports across India have opened liquor stores to enhance traveller experience. We hope that the government takes this up with corporations and the airport operator to find a solution on priority,” Giri said.