Delhi Lt Governor VK Saxena on Monday approved the AAP government’s move to extend excise licenses of private liquor vends as well as hotels and bars by a month, holding out hope that alcohol supply would be resumed in a city that had to observe an unofficial dry day .
No alcohol was served in bars, pubs, restaurants and hotels and none could be bought either as permits expired on July 31. The Lt Governor has approved the Delhi government’s proposal, sent late last night, for extending the Excise Policy 2021-22 by a month, officials said.
The Excise Department has yet to issue an official order to this effect. Until such an order is issued, alcohol cannot be served in hotels and pubs or sold in vends. Some restaurateurs also said that although the process for extension of licenses will be done online, it will take at least a day or two to complete it, which would mean people will have to wait for their liquor.
“This extension has been approved essentially as a limited transitory measure considering the tenure of existing licenses that expired on July 31, 2022, and to maintain the confidence of people at large in the administration,” said sources in the LG office.
The LG has noted that there was “no other option” but to agree with the Delhi Cabinet decision taken on Sunday to extend the tenure of the existing retail and wholesale licenses for one month’s time for stock clearance, and to avoid closure of retail and wholesale vends, as well as prevent any law and order situation due to non-availability of liquor in the city, they said.
The excise licenses will be issued by the government upon payment of the license fee for the extended period. The private retail liquor vends that apply for extension will operate till August 31. The Delhi government as announced by Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia last Saturday will revert to old excise policy regime and operate liquor stores through its four corporations, from September 1.
The four corporations – DSIIDC, DTTDC, DCCWS and DSCSC – ran 475 liquor stores out of a total of 864 in Delhi under the old excise policy regime. The private stores licenses held by individuals numbered 389. As the liquor stores remained closed on Monday, employees loitered around talking to customers eagerly waiting outside vends to reopen.
“We have no idea when the order will come. Even if it comes today, there is no stuff in the shop to sell,” said a liquor vend employee near ITO. A zonal license holder said there was still uncertainty as the order by the Excise Department was delayed.
“Since the government made the announcement of reverting to the old excise policy regime, we were in the process of wrapping up business. “We are the worst sufferers as despite investing huge amount, we are forced to quit retail sale of liquor within months. Even one month extension is no compensation to our losses,” he said.
A restaurateur charged that there seemed to be “administrative incompetence” of the “highest level” on the part of the government which has led to the situation. “If they wanted to extend the license, they should have done it earlier. First, they took back the new excise policy and decided to run vends through their agencies and now one month extension is being given thinking nothing about losses we will suffer with no business to do for days due to this interruption,” he said.
There were 468 operational private liquor vends in Delhi until their licenses expired on Sunday. Under Excise Policy 2021-22, Delhi government had divided the city into 32 zones, each having a maximum of 27 liquor vends, licenses for which were issued to 14 private firms through open auction. Out of total 849 liquor vends, only around 639 had managed to open since November 2021. Currently, among the zonal licensees, nine have already quit the business and three more have expressed their intent to do so, officials said.
The Excise Policy 2021-22 was extended by the government until July 31 was withdrawn in the backdrop of a CBI probe recommended by the Lt Governor into alleged violation of rules and procedural lapses in its implementation. The policy was extended twice since April this year, as the government was still working on a revised excise policy for 2022-23 for which necessary approvals were yet to be taken.