According to a report by Anumesha Chaturvedi published in ET, restaurants, hotels, pubs and nightclubs in the country are seeking refunds, waivers on excise fee on liquor with licenses rendered useless since March and continuing prohibitions on serving of alcohol and prohibition on bars under Unlock 3.0 guidelines.
Anurag Katriar, president, National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) said he has requested the Maharashtra government to extend the tenure of the current licenses without any additional fee till March 31, 2021. “Maharashtra has deferred payments till September, but people will surrender licenses. If I know I have only 4-5 months of limited business why would I pay a whole year’s fee? In states such as Delhi, restaurants have paid license fee but have not been permitted to serve alcohol. It has become a major challenge in the state,” he said.
Annual liquor license fee can vary from Rs 9 lakh to 45 lakh in Delhi for some of the nightclubs depending on the size of the establishment and number of seats and areas served.
Restaurateurs said unlike other states, Delhi has a six months cycle and a lot of restaurants have paid fee for April-September. In the absence of any waivers, they might be expected to pay license fee for the next six months in September now. Delhi’s excise commissioner Ravi Dhawan declined to comment on the matter.
“On an average, restaurants in Delhi pay Rs 12-13 lakh annually for the liquor license. In Delhi most of them have paid the annual fee in February itself and then the lockdown was imposed. So they have paid for the period, but they are not allowed to service. The authorities should either refund or give us an extension,” said Manpreet Singh, owner of the Zen restaurant in Connaught Place.
The Delhi excise department website shows 80 restaurants currently have licenses to serve liquor, while according to officials, there are about 700 restaurants in Delhi that were authorised to serve liquor last year. Many of them have now postponed the decision to renew licenses.
According to Bharti realty, which operates Aerocity, the ticket size in food and beverage outlets has gone down to Rs 750 per customer against Rs 1500 owing to no liquor sales as of now.
“From April to now, not a single rupee of revenue has been generated and the license has not been used. And we could be expected to pay the next tranche due in September for Delhi. We are requesting for either refunds or adjustments till the next year,” said Rahul Singh, founder and CEO of The Beer Café.
In states such as Karnataka restaurants had to pay for liquor license renewals in June. NRAI approached the high court on the matter.
Restaurants serving liquor said that though they are witnessing 30% of footfalls compared with pre Covid days, average billing size has nearly halved due to restrictions on serving alcohol.
Shivanand Shetty, president, Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHAR) said his association has asked for a one year waiver in Maharashtra.