Haryana’s new excise policy promises to be a hangover that doesn’t end for restaurant, pub and brewery owners in Gurgaon who want to stay open till 1 am.
They will now have to shell out an additional Rs8 lakh every year for the open-till-late permission. What adds to the new excise brew is the fact that the licence fee for those making their own beer has been doubled to Rs10 lakh, pushing the cost per litre up by 25%.
Gurgaon’s mug of woe spills over when Delhi, where the alcohol promises to flow cheaper and longer after April 1, comes into the picture. “The reality is that many restaurants will not renew their licences, and new ones will not enter the field. A revenue loss is around the corner and jobs will move to Delhi, which has an attractive excise policy and vibrant nightlife. Compared to Delhi, all the liquor (domestic or imported) will become more expensive. Delhi has not increased any price this year,” says Haryana chapter head of the National Restaurant Association of India Rahul Singh.
Also, Delhi has fair pricing in the form of maximum retail price (MRP). The price is declared on the excise website, and overcharging is not possible.
Ironically, Haryana has put in an MRP concept, but as minimum retail price. The relevant clause of the policy says that no maximum sale price is fixed.
This allows wholesalers and vends to price as they please.
“This will encourage fresh beer drinkers to switch to hard liquor which will become significantly cheaper. The retail beer trade will also be hard hit by the hike. The hike will affect sales in the summer,” says Nainkasi Brewery owner Baljeet Singh. According to Singh, a glass of 330ml fresh beer will now cost around Rs230 against the existing Rs150 while a 30ml drink of premium whisky will cost approximately Rs250.
Even occasional beer drinkers say they will think twice before reaching out for that pint of lager. “The prices are already on the high side. The government should encourage beer drinking instead of hard liquor,” says Jatin Ahuja, a beer drinker from Gurgaon.
Haryana has the highest licence fee for a restaurant in India which has jumped from Rs12.5 lakh to Rs15 lakh. Owners worry that patrons will start moving to Delhi where such establishments are already allowed to serve till 1 AM.
“Delhi-Gurgaon are twin cities and if people find Delhi more conducive... the loss will be Haryana’s in state taxes as well as jobs . Under the new regime, our challenge will be to sustain our businesses. The government is creating a deterrent to drinking. Delhi will benefit,” says Inderjeet Banga, the manager of a restaurant called Prankster.