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    Delhi government allows hotels, restaurants to serve liquor, directs excise dept to issue necessary permissions

    Synopsis

    Taking a cue from states such as Punjab and Rajasthan, the government has allowed hotels and restaurants to serve alcohol in the rooms and at the tables respectively while keeping bars shut. Restaurateurs and hoteliers said they were happy but were keeping their fingers crossed for no tussles between the government and lieutenant governor (LG) Anil Baijal on the matter.

    New Delhi: Through internal recommendations and directions to the excise commissioner, the Delhi state government has asked for restaurants and clubs in the national capital to be allowed to serve liquor, a day after letting hotels resume operations. Taking a cue from states such as Punjab and Rajasthan, the government in its letter to the excise department said hotels and restaurants should be able to serve alcohol in rooms and at tables, while bars can stay closed. Industry executives welcomed the move but were apprehensive about the matter turning into another bone of contention between the state government and the lieutenant governor.

    In his letter which ET has seen, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said the excise department should issue the necessary permissions “considering revenue implications." “Bars will remain closed under the provisions of unlock guidelines of the Ministry of Home Affairs,” the letter said.


    It also observed that Assam, Punjab and Rajasthan “have permitted service of liquor by licence holders under the excise rules at the restaurant and club tables and in the hotel rooms.”


    People familiar with the matter said the recommendation by the excise department will be put forth to Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) for final approvals.


    ET had reported August 14 that Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan had allowed restaurants and clubs to serve liquor while keeping bar counters shut, since the business is a key revenue generator, taking advantage of a lack of clarity in the home ministry’s latest guidelines.

    “We will open all our outlets in Delhi in a week if this goes through. Not being able to serve alcohol was our main pain point,” said Priyank Sukhija, chief executive of First Fiddle, which runs 15 outlets in Delhi across brands such as Lord of the Drinks, Tamasha and Warehouse Café, hoping the relaxation will be allowed without any hitch. “Restaurants are already allowed to open and offering a beer is safer than serving a mocktail or buttermilk. We met the excise commissioner on Friday and he seemed positive. We are keeping our fingers crossed.”

    National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) president Anurag Katriar described the move as a logical next step and hopes it will be implemented soon. “Selling liquor is not a taboo. Liquor shops are anyway open. When people are being served on the table, where social distancing is already maintained, I don’t see an issue,” he said.


    Tarun Thakral, COO of the Le Meridien hotel in Delhi said he is waiting for the standard operating procedures to come for Delhi hotels and for excise department's instructions. "There is a lot of investment that has gone into keeping the kind of liquor inventories that hotels have. I hope we are granted permissions soon," he said.

    Riyaaz Amlani, chief executive of Impresario Entertainment and Hospitality, which runs brands such as Social and Smokehouse Deli, said as long as bars are not allowed to operate and customers are drinking at the table while maintaining social distancing, liquor permission should be granted.

    “It will give restaurants much-needed additional revenue in these trying times. Without alcohol and social distancing and with reduced timings, we are looking at generating only about 30-35% of our previous revenues, which would make running restaurants more painful than staying shut,” he said.
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