Delhi returns to old excise policy, liquor stores reopen with barren shelves

New Delhi: Empty shelves or very little stock at the government-run liquor vends marked the first day of the return of the old excise policy regime on Thursday in the national capital. Most of customers, who visited the liquor shops, left disappointed after finding out that their favourite brands are not available in the market. Several said they miss big shops and rebates being offered at private vends. The city returned to the old excise policy regime with the opening of government-run liquor vends and the exit of private players from the retail business.

The excise department claimed that four Delhi government undertakings have readied 300 liquor stores across the city. However, experts said around 240 liquor shops would open on the first day after the closure of private stores. The shop in-charges said they have reported to the duty on time but liquor stock has not been provided by the government as of yet.

An employee of a liquor vend said there are fewer brands available and hoped the number will rise in the coming days to meet popular demand. “We are sitting idle since the morning as shelves are empty. Stock is yet to come. Customers are going home empty-handed. We hope the stock will arrive by tomorrow. It is a transition period,” said Rajesh Kumar, in-charge of a vend in Vishnu Garden.

Similarly, at a vend in Shahdara, Narendra Kumar, the shop in-charge, was seen sitting with empty shelves and no customers. “Usually we see hustle and bustle at liquor shops, but it’s missing here due to empty shelves here. Usually, the crowd gathers around a liquor shop that’s how you know there is a liquor shop,” he said. Pushpendra, a customer who came to a vend at Mayur Vihar Phase II to buy liquor, rued lack of his favourite brand there. “The private stores were bigger while it’s a small shop. The government should allow private shops also so that people can have a choice,” he said.

Meanwhile, some liquor stock arrived at several vends in the morning. “We have got just five cases of vodka and five cases of whisky. But we are expecting more supply later today and tomorrow. Things will take time to get normal,” said Devendra, in-charge of a shop in Mayur Vihar.

The return of the old excise policy, which was in force before November 17, 2021, also means that discounts offered by private vends on liquor brands have become a thing of the past for Delhi.

A liquor lover in Laxmi Nagar, Rajnish complained about no rebates or schemes being offered by the government vends. “Earlier I used to spend less and have more. Now, I will have to spend more to get my daily fix,” he said.

Excise officials said teething troubles are expected to persist for some days but liquor supply and brand availability will improve in the coming days. The stock of over 40 lakh alcohol bottles has been arranged by the department to meet the demand amid expectations of a sluggish sale of around 12 lakh bottles per day in July. The demand had scaled to 15 lakh bottles per day in August, officials said.