News and Update
Govt Stops Beer Sales in Department Stores
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27 April 2010
By Malathy Iyer
New Delhi, India
Complaints Of Irregularities In Award Of Licence
Next time you walk into a departmental store to buy beer, chances are you won’t find any. All 115 L–53 licences that were given out over a period of one year or so have been suspended after more than a hundred complaints from various parts of the city poured in about rules being violated during granting of the licence that allows existing departmental stores to stock beer over a specified area only. Nine officials involved in issuing these licences have been issued notices by the excise commissioner and will face inquiries if their replies turn out to be dissatisfactory. The officials have been given three days to reply.
“Of these licences, 20 were old and 96 were issued during the 2009–10 financial year. We have found cases where the licences were issued in complete disregard to rules. For now, all the licences have been suspended and we have stopped issuing purchase licences to these outlets,” finance minister A K Walia said. A meeting on the matter was scheduled for Monday afternoon but was cancelled as the principal secretary (finance) was not available.
The rule for awarding L–53 licences is that only an existing departmental store which is at least 500 square feet in size can apply. The licence does not allow selling beer in more than 10% of the available store space and only a 200 cc refrigerator for storing it. Excise officials say, numerous instances have been found where a brand new shop has been opened for the purpose of selling liquor and has been granted L–53 licence “without any explanation. To give them the look of a departmental store they sell some chips and snacks but that is it”, said an official.
Walia said most of the complaints have come from Residents’ Welfare Associations. “The conditions are such that if an existing shop gets the licence, most people in the area can hardly even make out that it is selling beer. However, a new liquor shop in the neighbourhood is obviously far more conspicuous and raises eyebrows,” the minister said.
There have been rumblings of corruption in the awarding of liquor licences but suspension of an entire lot of them has happened for the first time in the city.