Say cheers: Special liquor counters for women a big hit

Three special counters for women have been opened in Delhi government-run liquor shops, with the aim of improving the buying experience for women while also chipping away at the social stigma associated with female alcohol consumers; three more such counters are to open in the coming months

Say Cheers: Liquor shops for women a hit

WHO DARES, BUYS: In walk-in shops, the buying experience is much easier and more comfortable. (Photo: Rohan Chauhan)

In Delhi, around six licensed vends have opened a special counter for women while buying alcohol, never a comfortable experience for them.

Privately owned shops which are licensed as well as those which are state-run are allowed to have these counters. 
 
Patriot visited three of these outlets to find out what difference this change has brought: two at Galleria Mall in Mayur Vihar and one in the Pitampura Mall. Currently, there are around 460 liquor stores in Delhi, with over 500 brands registered and 1,000 more planned in the following months. However, even with such broad options available, buying alcohol is no easy task for the women of Delhi. 

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Happy hours  

At Mayur Vihar's Galleria Mall, it was evening and both liquor outlets were busy due to the festival season. However, the counters designated for females were deserted. A few women were purchasing liquor from the general counters.

When Patriot interviewed Seema (surname not revealed), a graphic designer who stays in Mayur Vihar, she said, "I would often get judged for standing in the queue. A few private shops did have the facility of walk-in but the prices there were comparatively higher. This move gives us a better, more secure experience."

She continues, "In adjacent neighbourhoods like New Ashok Nagar and Phase-3 Mayur Vihar, a lot of young migrants live who have come here for employment, especially ladies. This decision is a positive move for them."Shiv Naresh, proprietor of the wine shop at Galleria Mall, applauds the government's action, saying, "This measure has helped us boost sales from six figures to seven figures a day, which means we earn roughly Rs 12-14 lakh a day. Before, it was below Rs 10 lakh."

The number of female customers has grown dramatically, says Naresh. But the question arises: Why, if the decision is so beneficial, women are still purchasing liquor from regular counters rather than the ones designated for them?

To this, he responded, “Aap thodi der rukiye, phir fir dekhiye. (Wait for some time, then you’ll see). The evening has just started. We'll be here until 12 am, and as night falls, you'll see a cluster at the female counter
as well.”
 
High hopes

There was a possibility that such liquor counters are going to open at airports as well under the previous excise system, which went into force on 1 September 1. However, this move was stymied by the cancellation of the 2021-22 liquor policy due to an inquiry into suspected irregularities in its preparation.

According to sources, two arms of the state government – Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation (DTTDC) and Department of Delhi State Civil Supplies Corporation (DSCSC) – have approached the Airport Authority for permission to operate liquor vends in terminals.

Women will be able to purchase liquor more easily once these counters operate in malls and airports. 

According to officials, these unique counters will also give women a "nice walk-in experience." And boost sales, of course According to a poll conducted by Statista, Delhi ranks second in terms of alcohol consumption, trailing only Kolkata, with about 31% of the population drinking alcohol.

The Excise Department collected Rs 768 crore in revenue in the first month of reverting to the old policy, with Rs 460 crore coming from excise duty, Rs 140 crore from VAT, and the remaining amount from licence fees issued to hotels, bars, wholesalers, clubs, and retail vendors for a six-month period, citing a large number of alcohol consumers in the capital city as justification for such steps.
 
Good response

Ashok Kumar, owner of the other liquor shop in Galleria mall with the special counter, confirms that the decision has been really beneficial for his business, especially in the ongoing festive season.

He continues that on most days, almost one-third of his customers are female,  which wasn’t the case earlier. He continues, "I've been in the business for the previous 13 years, and I've never seen such progressive policies before." 

In his view, the decision assists shop floor managers to maintain a decorum in the outlet, which was previously chaotic. Alcohol lovers tend to be impatient and unruly in the peak hours during 9-11 pm. Women customers had to either join the rush or turn away. Most of the time they would see the crowd and return, which is no longer the case.
 
The staff of the Pitampura mall, including the owner, was too busy to talk but Patriot did manage to talk to a customer to find out women customers’ reactions. 

Akansha, who runs her own company, told Patriot that the process has become much easier. Previously, they would become the target of unwanted stares and nasty comments while standing in line, “Getting touched or groped in the milling crowd was a usual occurrence and identifying the individual who perpetrated such horrible acts becomes difficult. After this experience, you would ask yourself why you went there in the first place,” she says.

“That is no longer the case. I'm pleased that such a step has been done, even if people still criticise and look at you as if to say, ‘You're a woman, what are you doing here?’ But it's something that we learn to disregard,” she concludes.

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