The Delhi government has presented a shocker to the restaurant industry by stating that no new liquor licenses will be allotted to restaurants or mall shops as a measure of a new policy that may stay until the end of this financial year. The government has guided the excise department not to grant any new liquor license till additional instructions. The policy is expected to be presented in the cabinet soon to be ratified.
Implementing the policy will not be an easy task for the government as they might have to endure objections and legal actions from a large number of businessmen who have already applied for new licenses. Many have even paid the licensing fees as per the requirement in the procedure.Apart from businessmen and restaurateurs, The National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) has been against any policy of such type as well.
It is being believed that the upcoming Punjab Elections play a huge part in this decision and the betterment of Delhi was not the concern. Also, last month the Delhi Government received a lot of criticism from rival parties and many social groups for exploiting the liquor licenses and granting them in large numbers, the number almost touching the 400 mark.Delhi government's data shows there are 704 restaurants with bar licenses and 399 mall shops with liquor licenses in the city. The number of government-run vendors stands at 350.The Delhi government argues that the existing number of liquor vendors is enough to meet the city's demand.Whatever be the motivation, the decision is all set to cause a flutter in the restaurant industry.
On September 22, NRAI President Riyaaz Amlani addressed the Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi, Mr. Manish Sisodia, who is also the finance and excise minister in a letter, stating that stopping licenses will not just impact the restaurant business in Delhi but also lead to law and order issues.Such a move will be a regressive step and goes against the government's promise of ease of doing business. The industry was, in fact, expecting an automatic online system of giving licenses to hospitality as has been done for event management industry.
He pointed out that the number of licenses for retail vendors over the last two years had seen an increase of 48%. In comparison, the licenses for restaurants had increased by only 6%. He also stated that ‘Restaurants provide for safe and licensed premises for liquor service. Any stoppage in Delhi will drive the customer, and more importantly the revenue to neighboring states. With restaurants not getting licenses, there will be an increase in law and order situation, since people would start to drink at retail shops, on roads, and in cars.’
On September 30, the association also wrote to lieutenant governor Najeeb Jung, saying no new licenses were being issued for the past couple of months. They also sought an audience with the LG on the issue.