“Right Intent, Illogical Directive”: HRAWI on Excise Dept.’S Grant for Sale of Liquor

The HRAWI, after weighing the pros and cons of the directive has said that while the intent is right, the directive itself is confusing and ambiguous.

Earlier this month the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI) had written to the Maharashtra Government, pleading hotels, restaurants and bars in the State to be given permission to liquidate perishable liquor stocks lying with them and which are on the verge of expiry. It is estimated that wine and beer with all such license holders is in excess of Rs.10 Crore and are likely to perish due to the expiry of the products.

In response, the State Excise department yesterday issued a letter allowing FLlll license holders to sell sealed imported liquor to consumers and beer to be sold only to FL/BR-ll license holders i.e. wine shops, as onetime transaction, with a special transport pass. The HRAWI, after weighing the pros and cons of the directive has said that while the intent is right, the directive itself is confusing and ambiguous.

“We appreciate the Excise department’s attempt to offer a solution to the expiring stock but the conditions for sale as mentioned in the order are counterproductive. Firstly, bars and restaurants have been allowed to sell only foreign liquor whereas we had asked for being allowed to sell beer and wine since the latter has expiration dates while the former doesn’t. Second, wine shops make bulk purchases directly from companies and benefit greater discount than us. In such a scenario a restaurant selling its liquor to wine shops would be tantamount to a kirana shop selling its groceries to a Big Bazaar,” said Gurbaxish Singh Kohli, President, HRAWI.

The Association has stated that wine shops purchase their stocks directly from manufactures at discounted rates and have no incentive or reason to buy it from restaurants or bars. In addition, they would have to dispose off their own stocks first.

The Hospitality Industry has been under lockdown now for two months and sale of Liquor under FL3 Licenses have been prohibited by declaration of Dry Day, pursuant to the order issued by the State Excise.

Pradeep Shetty, Vice President, HRAWI said, “We had asked for the Government to allow us to sell the perishable stock so that we could introduce working capital, even if miniscule, to help keep business afloat. Many establishments are on the verge of closing and many others are bleeding in outgoing expenses while sitting on dormant stocks. Basically what the Excise department has offered restaurants and bars, is a watered-down version of what we had requested and which does not serve any purpose.”

HRAWI in their various letters to the Excise Minister and the Excise Secretary had requested the Government to allow sale of perishable liquor in the hope of salvaging from the unsold stock to induce some liquidity into businesses. In the alternate, HRAWI had requested the Government to direct the manufacturers/distributors to replace that stock which was expiring or had expired.

“On other aspects of the order, we have no idea about what a special transport pass is neither do we know how to apply for it and obtain it. The order does not inform us about whether VAT needs to be charged or not, among other details and is basically is a naught. Also this order is only for those areas which are not under lockdown. It does not apply to Mumbai and other areas under lockdown. We request the Government to review the order, simplify it and offer a tangible solution for the sake of giving the industry something to look forward to,” concluded Kohli.


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