It would be a national waste, if we let stocks reach their expiry, and then let them get washed into kitchen sinks. It is a worthy suggestion to allow hotels and restaurants to deliver liquor home. It will bring revenue, when governments are looking at new streams. It eliminates wastage. It would create new and additional points of sale, reduce pressure on vends and ensure social distancing; it would be a win-win situation for government, the industry, and the end consumer.

Shut for the last 40 days and sitting on alcohol worth hundreds of crores, hotels, restaurants, pubs and bars across the country has rightly suggested that the government should look into amending existing regulations. It is critical that they be allowed to sell their stock and even do home delivery. Considering the rush at liquor vends, creating additional points of sale will improve implementation of social distancing norms.

In a media interaction, quoted across newspapers, Rahul Singh, founder of The Beer Café, said his chain has 1 lakh litres or about ₹3 crore worth of stocked beer. “Putting this beer down the drain would be very foolish. You can’t produce beer overnight. Let it be bought by people. At the end of the day you are wasting resources and the biggest stakeholder is the government,” he said. Singh was quoted as saying that  both the UK and the US had very stringent laws when it came to liquor, but licensing authorities in both these countries during their lockdowns allowed closed bars, hotels and restaurants to sell their alcohol in certain regions and found ways to help licence-holders.

As per industry estimates, any standalone restaurant from an established chain could have alcohol inventory of ₹10-25 lakh lying with it. For five-star chains, the stocks are worth much more.

Industry body Federation of Hotel and Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI) said it is writing to the ministry of home affairs (MHA) and the state authorities to allow hotels and restaurants to sell their stock through the ‘takeaway option’ as well as to instruct manufacturers to replace stock that is about to expire and could not be sold.

“We are requesting MHA and all state governments to allow hotels and restaurants to do home deliveries and takeaways for liquor, especially alcohol like beer which is perishable and could be on the verge of expiry. These alcohol stocks across hotels and restaurants are worth hundreds of crores,” said Pradeep Shetty, honorary secretary, FHRAI.

Tarun Thakral, chief operating officer of Le Meridien in Delhi, said his hotel had alcohol stocks worth ₹70-80 lakh, when the lockdown began. “We keep a minimum buffer stock of about ₹70-80 lakh because we get discounts and our banqueting consumption is very high. We have had to destroy stocks like beer and put them down the drain,” he added.

Times Like These not only demand innovative solutions but also speed in decision making. The quicker we can bring relief to the beleaguered sections of the industry, each one will have its own problems, and their respective solutions. Important that the state recognizes the legitimate issues and considers them speedily to bring succour to the economy.