‘Delhi govt’s new liquor stores won’t be old, dingy’: Officials
New Delhi: The government is returning to the business of sale and distribution of liquor in the national Capital, but only with proper, spacious and well-lit establishments and not the notorious grilled ’thekas’, officials aware of the matter said.
The Delhi government is switching to the old excise regime from September 1, after the lieutenant governor, VK Saxena, recommended a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe in to the alleged lapses in the implementation of the provisions of the 2021-22 policy. Under the old excise regime, four Delhi government agencies will open at least 500 stores across the city by August 31, and the number of stores will go up to 700 by December 31. This will include 20 premium vends.
According to an excise department document, explaining the eligibility requirements for opening liquor vends by government agencies, the stores should be located in a ‘pucca’ building with a minimum floor area of 300 square feet, and it should be located in local shopping centre or commercial premises. HT has seen the document.
With the implementation of the 2021-22 policy, the government exited the liquor business in the Capital. The policy envisaged that liquor shops in the city has to be to be at least 500 square feet in size, and allow the buyers to browse and purchase the brands of their choice. The policy said that the shops have to be spacious, well lit and air-conditioned to allow customers a walk-in experience and must be under camera surveillance.
However, with the switchover to the old regime coming into force, till the government frames a new excise policy, there were apprehensions that the shoppers may have to see the old,dingy, grilled shops that existed before the implementation of the 2021-22 policy.
“We are trying to ensure that each liquor store has 300-500 square feet space, but the minimum space for each store would be around 300 sqft. In places where we get larger space, we will also go for larger space,” said an official, who is a member of an excise committee formed by the Delhi government to ensure smooth transition from the existing policy to the old regime.
“In upscale areas such as Khan Market, Greater Kailash, Lajpat Nagar, etc., we are going for larger stores. In such stores, we would like to provide the walk-in experience to the buyers,” the official said asking not to be named.
A Delhi government spokesperson did not comment on the matter.
A former excise commissioner of Delhi said many government-run liquor stores were small and dingy because they were opened decades ago, “some were started even in 1970s”.
“Area of some of the liquor stores run by the government was even smaller than 150 square feet. At the time they had opened, and the localities they were situated in were not as much crowded as they are today. While the world around them grew, the liquor stores failed to modernise themselves because the governments did not bother as long as the shops continued to do business,” the former commissioner said, asking not to be named.
Naresh Goyal, president of Delhi Liquor Trade Association, a union of private liquor traders who operated 260 liquor stores till the new excise policy was implemented and they were forced to shut shops, said liquor shopping experience can be made better only when the market forces (private players) are involved in the process, and the business is driven by competition. “The association has submitted a representation to the Delhi government and the LG through the excise commissioner seeking their intervention to allow the private players to operate because under the old policy the private retail vendors were contributing around 60% of total revenue collection,” said Goyal.
Vinod Giri, director general, Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC), said this is the right opportunity for the government to open bigger and better liquor stores in place of the decades-old liquor stores as they used to be leaving the customers with a bad experience and little choice while buying their bottles. “At the same time, the government should allow space to the private players as well because it will lead to competition, innovation in retailing, wide product choices and quality customer experience,” said Giri.
Anshul Chopra, who works with a cold storage company, said people had a new liquor buying experience with large, air-conditioned and walk-in stores that were opened recently in the city. “The experience was unique and people loved it because they wanted freedom from the crowded, cage-like government run liquor stores. It felt as if it was unethical to buy and consume alcohol. Now, the government run stores should ensure the same ambience,” said Chopra.
Nilam Saxena, a working professional who lives in Rohini, said the new stores made it very convenient for women to buy liquor. “In metropolitan cities like Delhi, alcohol is part of life. We felt comfortable buying liquor from private vends which offered a good experience. The government should ensure that we do not slip back into the age of caged liquor stores,” said Nilam.
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