NEW DELHI: Restaurants in Delhi might be able to serve liquor till 3am and alcohol service in open spaces like terraces could also become easier if the recommendations of an expert committee set up by Delhi government to suggest excise reforms are implemented.
Restaurants and clubs are permitted to serve liquor till 1am at present and only bars within star hotels are allowed to function 24×7. The government panel has suggested that timings of bars in restaurants and clubs may be increased by two hours as in other metro cities and areas in NCR on payment of additional fees.
The report noted that there being no explicit provision for grant of licence in open areas, liquor service could be permitted in open spaces such as terraces, balconies or lower areas of restaurants, clubs and hotels.
These two suggestions are part of reforms suggested in the segment to usher in changes in liquor trade in keeping with the changing stature of the national capital. In September, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia had constituted the committee under the chairmanship of the excise commissioner to suggest measures on augmenting state excise duty revenue and to recommend steps to ‘transform the nature of liquor trade commensurate to the changing stature of the capital’.
TOI had first reported the expert committee’s recommendation on lowering the legal drinking age in Delhi from 25 years to 21, ensuring equitable availability of liquor in the city by ensuring at least three liquor vends in each of the 272 municipal wards and limiting the number of dry days to three in a year.
The committee’s report has now been put in the public domain for comments from both stakeholders and the public till January 21. The report will then be submitted to Delhi government after 24 days and a final decision taken by the cabinet. The approved recommendations will form a part of the excise policy for 2021-22.
The report also says that at present, the licence fee for restaurants holding a liquor permit was based on seat covers. The licence fee in premium areas like Khan Market or Connaught Place was the same as that in comparatively lower rental areas like northeast and outer Delhi. The committee advised a review of this system and the rationalisation of licence fee on the basis of area instead of seat covers.
The panel also suggested measures for migration of the drinking population from hard liquor to soft liquor by rationalising the duty structure and reducing the different fees paid for beer, wine, etc. It also supported allowing departmental stores to sell beer, wine, etc.
The report mentions that while per capita income or spending capacity of Delhiites is higher than in other metros, consumers in the capital have a limited choice. “The aim should be to incentivise the customer to move to a higher value product from the existing products, ensuring better quality product to the consumer as well as higher revenue to the government,” the report said.