In a first-of-its-kind policy announcement, large offices in Haryana will be allowed to serve beer, wine and ready-to-drink low-content alcoholic beverages within their office premises starting next month, the Haryana council of ministers has approved in the state’s liquor excise policy of 2023-24. The excise policy said corporate offices in the state with at least 5,000 employees and a minimum covered area of one lakh-square feet in single premises which could be either self-owned or leased, will be allowed to consume and possess alcohol from June.

Executives at alcobev firms said the policy is “transformational” and will redefine liquor consumption in the state and specially Gurgaon, home to some of the biggest corporate offices in India.

“We will be working with large corporates to set up infrastructure and operate these licenses. Clear cut guidelines of having 1 lakh square foot office and 5,000 employees will ensure that this license is not misused and is provisioned for large size corporates,” said Rahul Singh, founder of the Beer Cafe.

The new policy has also reduced excise on mild beer, wine and ready-to-drinks alcobev, besides reducing annual fee for bar licenses in restaurants, pubs and cafes.

“The reduction in annual fee for bar licenses in restaurants, pubs and cafes will help our industry to bounce back stronger from the unprecedented pandemic infused disruptions,” Singh said.

The policy includes certain provisions for small scale breweries as well.

“We welcome the new excise policy that taxes low alcohol beverages like beer lower than hard spirits. The policy will also improve ease of doing business in the state and enable consumers to opt for premium brands with improved retail access,” said Anasuya Ray, vice president, corporate affairs at AB InBev India, which makes Budweiser beer.

Alcobev as a category has been heavily restricted and is taxed at multiple levels at different state levels, which executives say hampers industry growth.

Calling the Haryana policy as “one that will spur demand for the entire category in the state”, Ashish Kapur, promoter of premium bar chains Whisky Samba and Wine Company, said: “Reduction in excise on low-alcohol drinks and ready-to-drink beverages will fuel demand from young consumers and encourage so many newer entrepreneurial brands, as well as categories such as premium wines. Also, lowering excise fee for bars will encourage people to drink in organised premises and hence will promote responsible drinking.”

Executives urged other states to follow the Haryana policy, to promote overall alcobev consumption.

“States have typically increased excise on liquor; that’s killing the ecosystem. What needs to be done is lower the excise duties and promote responsible drinking,” Kapur said.

The minimum area of the canteen or eatery where the license in form L-10F may be granted in such corporate offices must not be less than two thousand square feet, and will be granted on payment of a fixed fee of Rs 10 lakh annually, according to the policy.

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