Gurugram: The Haryana excise department is mulling a crackdown on clubs, pubs, restaurants and other establishments that are operating without liquor licence, officials said on Tuesday.
According to officials, there are around 20 facilities in Sector 29, Golf Course Extension Road and Golf Course Road which are operating without liquor licence for additional hours. Besides, around 10 outlets in Sector 29 are serving alcohol without a liquor licence.
To serve alcohol, an establishment owner has to apply for L4 and L5 liquor licences. If the owner plans to keep the pub or bar open till 2am, an annual fee of ₹20 lakh is to be paid for licence. For establishments that want to stay open till 8am, an additional ₹18 lakh is required to be paid. Moreover, if an owner opts to obtain an additional point (an additional space to the establishment), ₹3.6 lakh per year is the fee.
In a spot check conducted on Saturday and Sunday, HT found several outlets along Sector 29, Gold Course Road and Golf Course Extension Road operating through the night without a licence.
Following tip-offs, police raided a club in Sector 29 on Sunday for allegedly serving hookah and liquor without the appropriate licence. According to police, two managers and a cashier of the pub were arrested after a raid between 1am and 3am.
One of the clubs booked for illegally serving liquor was Boombox Brewstreet. Paras Kataria, the general manager of the club, said that they had applied for licence renewal on March 13 but the application was pending.
“Renewal process takes time, and other clubs and pubs in the area are also operating in the same fashion with pending renewals,” he said.
However, as per the excise policy no one can operate until they receive licence to serve liquor.
A case was registered against three staff members of Boombox Brewstreet, under relevant sections of The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products Act and The Punjab Excise Act (Haryana Amendment Bill, 2020), at DLF police station in Sector 29 on Sunday.
Similarly, Sector 53 police raided The Big Tree Café on Golf Course Road on Monday after receiving information that liquor was served without licence and arrested a 33-year-old staff member.
A case under excise act was registered at Sector 53 police station, said police.
Rahul Arora, owner of The Big Tree Café, said that they did not apply for liquor licence and this was the first time they had served liquor.
On Tuesday, Kulbhushan Bhardwaj, former district bar association president, wrote to excise and taxation commissioner levelling allegations of evasion of liquor licence fees as well as evasion of excise revenue amid “connivance” of excise officials with bar and pub owners.
He filed an RTI seeking reply over the number of licences given to these outlets in Gurugram. “A joint excise team from Panchkula (head office) and Gurugram had come for inspection of bars in Sector 29 market on March 23. The information of inspection was leaked by officials from excise office at Gurugram and many bar owners fled by closing their bars and pubs,” he said. He added that several establishments were also avoiding additional point fees and causing huge losses to the exchequer.
“This scam requires investigation and evidence will prove my claims. The computer systems should be checked,” he said.
Meanwhile, outlet owners who are paying licence fees said that rules and regulations should be same for all.
Vinod Garg, owner of two outlets in Sector 29, said, “The menace can be controlled if strict action is taken and more than double the penalty amount is imposed on violators. Illegal outlets should be sealed.”
Narender Pahuja, owner of Decode outlet, said that they are paying ₹38 lakh annually to run the outlet while others are making profits without paying any fees. “Due to competition, we have to keep less margins. But others are offering discounts to attract customers,” he said.
Pankaj Sachdeva, owner of Zorro night club, said, “Those who are paying licence are suffering financially.”
Vivek Agarwal, assistant excise and taxation officer (East), said, “We are conducting surprise checks to ensure no one is operating illegally. Anyone found operating without licence, their outlets will be sealed. We will send these cases as breach case to headquarters for further action,” he said.