DELHI: For the first time in six years, Beer Cafe is not hosting the Oktoberfest promotions at any of its outlets across Delhi. The reason: German beer is not available in the city. If you have also ordered your favourite imported wine, beer or any other liquor at a restaurant, bar, lounge or nightclub in the city and the apologetic waiter offered you a local variant, it is due to delay in registration of new brands at the Delhi excise department.
Many restaurateurs told TOI because of the unusual delay this year, they have run out of imported liquor, leading to loss of business and reputation. One of them said nowadays he hands out a printout of what’s not available along with the menu. The process that was to be completed within a fortnight is not over after two months.
Umang Tewari of Big Fish Ventures said though their stocks were depleted, they had no option but to wait. Many others who didn’t come on record rued their plight. An excise department official said a new clause in the excise policy has made it must for primary importers to keep the wholesale price of their brands of foreign liquor similar in each state.
The official said that the wholesale price generally varies from state to state and due to the difference in tax structure, the retail price of foreign liquor becomes higher and customers prefer to buy it in Haryana.
He argued the move will ensure that the difference in the retail price of such brands in Delhi and its surrounding states remains marginal and consumers do not buy liquor from the neighbouring states and smuggle it into the capital. “Certain brands have not finalised their MRP. If restaurants want to procure a particular brand, they can buy it from the retail market by taking permission from the excise department. About 10-12 restaurants have already done that. When some policy changes happen, such delays do take place sometimes,” the official added.
“The importers are resolving their pricing issue in other states and also calculating the hit in profits they will have to take by lowering the wholesale price in the capital,” he added. An importer told TOI that Delhi has very high excise duties and registration charges in NCR, virtually ruling out the possibility of liquor to be cheaper ever. He said lowering of these charges could have been one way of lowering the rates.
“The state is losing revenue and we are losing business but have no answer to give to our customers,” complained Varun Duggal, CEO and executive director of Eastman Colour restaurants. Rahul Singh, CEO of Beer Cafe, added: “This ‘bits and pieces’ registration of alcohol brands has badly impacted our business.”
Prakul Kumar, secretary general of National Restaurant Association of India, says they understand the concerns of the excise department regarding pilferage and bootlegging but would not want customers and restaurants across the city to suffer. He says, they had flagged the issue and given regular representations to expedite the process. “Our delegations have met the excise commissioner and also deputy CM Manish Sisodia,” he said.
Meanwhile, one restaurant owner said he had been sent a notice by the excise department asking for the reasons for dip in sales this year as compared to last year. “The department has sent a notice to many restaurant owners asking for reasons for decline in sales and asked us for remedial measures we will undertake to boost the growth to 20 per cent. We would request the department to take the lead by making imported liquor available,” he said, wishing to remain anonymous.