Liquor tasting at vends in Delhi, come November 17

November 16, liquor stores delhi dry

As the Delhi government temporarily shuts down the private liquor stores in the capital, Patriot takes a look at what’s in store for Delhiites who like to partake 

Delhi’s residents will be unable to stock up on liquor this festive season due to the  new excise policy, as we all have come to know now, under which the government closed private liquor shops until November 16. This has left only the government vends open which at most times will be found with few options, and a personal policy of “buy what you get”.

The government is trying to bait the prospective new policy as one to look forward to as it would mean walk-in liquor stores – a much better experience than the one we currently enjoy.

We discuss all that’s new and if the next few dry weeks are really going to be made up after the new policy comes into force from November 17.

So firstly, with no state operated liquor vends, we will see a total of 849 exclusively privately owned entities, including what the government is calling five super premium retail vends.

These super premium vends, according to the notification, will be allowed in a space with a carpet area of not less than 2,500 Sq. Ft. It will be allowed to sell products only above Rs. 200 for Beer and above Rs. 1,000 Retail price for all other spirits including but not limited to Whiskey, Gin, Vodka, Brandy etc.

What they can also sell, to rake up more profit, is dedicate up to 10% of their space to sell ancillary products such as Cigars, liquor chocolates etc, even high-end art paintings, then what they call “high value merchandise” such as bottle openers, ice boxes, bar glasses etc.

Even more fascinating is the government giving these “Super Premium Vends” the idea to set up a tasting room within the premises, which they say “will have to be an enclosed area, not visible from the rest of the store. This room can only hold training and tasting sessions.”

What’s more, these shops will be allowed to be open till 11pm an hour more than the rest of the stores which will be open till 10pm.  

But with just five of these stores in all of Delhi, most of us will be dependent on the others which too will have to be ones that offer walk-in experience to customers. “To illustrate, customers will not be allowed to crowd outside a vend, or in the pavement and buy through the counter. Each customer shall be given access inside the vend and the entire selection and sale process shall be completed within the vend premise. The vend to have closed glass doors.”

Then, they must be air conditioned, have CCTVs installed inside and outside the shop with the recording being maintained for a minimum of one month.

The store will also have security arrangements which the licensee needs to provide, including managing the law and order and security around their shop. “In case the shop causes nuisance for the neighbourhood and a complaint is received by the Government, the license of that particular vend will be cancelled”, it says.

What will be interesting to see is how these shops go about another rule that the new policy demands, and that is ensuring “no dry snacks or cooked food outlet gets opened right outside the shop which encourages people to drink and loiter around the shop itself.” This we know is like sauce to a pizza, so how the vends manage to navigate is a mystery for now.

The government on its part believes this new policy was necessary, calling the old one as “highly cumbersome” with the liquor trade being “conducted in an archaic manner”.

So, how did these changes come about? Their expert Committee submitted its report to the Government on October 13, 2020. The Report of the Expert Committee was placed in the public domain, with comments from stakeholders/general public were invited on the recommendations of the Expert Committee till January 21, 2021.

The Government received 14,671 comments and feedback from the stakeholders and general public, it says. It was then placed before the Council of Ministers in the Cabinet Meeting held on February 5, 2021.

And now we have this new rule. Delhi which has 11 districts, 33 subdivisions, 272 wards, NDMC & Delhi Cantonment Board and 300 villages.

The 272 wards in 68 Assembly Constituencies will be divided into 30 zones. Each zone shall have 9-10 wards and shall be allowed to have a maximum of 27 retail vends (L-7V), having on average 3 retail vends in each ward. However, each zone operator (L-7Z licensee) will have to operate 2 ‘mandatory vends’ in each ward allocated in the zone and the remaining vends will be ‘freehold vends’ that can be operated anywhere within that zone.

Those in New Delhi and Delhi Cantonment Assembly Constituencies do not have Wards and 29 vends shall be allocated for New Delhi and Delhi Cantonment Assembly Constituencies together.

And those worried about air travel and buying some stock can be relieved as there will be 10 retail vends at the Indira Gandhi International Airport.

(Cover: Representational image : Getty)

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