Resto-bars in the capital (Delhi) are crying offensive over a new tax department order that says the contents of vodka and whisky bottles in the premium price range can only be sold within eight days of being opened and any unsold portion has to be disposed of.
The order, which came into effect from October 1 with the aim of checking mixing of liquor and preventing serving of diluted or spurious alcohol, has made restaurants re-think their stock orders. The “time limit rule” applies to sparkling wines, champagne as well as imported vodka and whisky priced in the range of Rs 1,501 to Rs 4,500 (750 ml).
A restaurateur said every bottle they open now will be with a prayer that it sells within the time limit to avoid losses. The restaurateur said he had to flush away most of the contents of two bottles each of three popular whisky brands this month.
Hotels with 4 star or higher ratings have been excluded from the rule.
‘8-day rule will take popular liquor brands off the menu’
He said that with October 2 being a dry day and other days falling within navratra, there was no way he could have sold his stock of opened bottles within eight days.
“If we open a bottle for a peg each of Ballantines, Chivas and Black Label, and no other guest orders these brands for next eight days, we will have no option but to flush the liquor in that bottle. We might have to limit our menu options to just two to three brands than keep multiple options and suffer losses,” he regretted.
A D Singh, MD of Olive Group, said while he understand and supported the government’s desire to control bootlegging and adulteration, the rules framed by the excise department were a huge setback to the industry. It was a very discouraging and demotivating step for all those running clean and honest businesses, he said.
Another restaurateur said the move is likely to lead to popular imported brands such as Absolut, Jim Beam, Jameson, Johnny Walker Black Label, Chivas 12 Years and Jack Daniels being taken off the menu as an owner will not risk his stock just to offer variety to customer.
“The move will simply kill the offerings from across the world we used to serve. This will make the beverage scene in the city substandard as most people like me will only stock IMFL as most of these brands fall below the price bracket and are out of the deadline dates,” he said.
Rahul Singh, former president of national restaurant association of India and CEO of Beer Café said hefty fines should have been used as a discouragement for mixing of alcohol, serving spurious liquor or avoiding duties rather than a rule that makes like difficult for lawabiding, duty-paying restaurateurs.
“I don’t think any bar would face a problem selling one bottle of 750ml of popular foreign liquor brands within eight days. There were lot of complaints of some bars mixing cheaper brands of liquor in the bottles of premium brands. The new rule has been brought in to put a check on this practice,” said an official, requesting anonymity.
He accepted that the excise department has been receiving a lot of representations from bars as well as their associations to relax the rule. “The rule is only for the bottle which has been unscrewed. It does not apply to bottles that are in the inventory or on the shelf. We have no immediate plan to tweak it,” the official said.