Liquor stores to open, industry plans 'contactless' sales
Last evening, Ministry of Home Affairs announced that the nationwide lockdown has been extended for two weeks from May 4, but it gave relaxations in various sectors. Taking cognizance of the pleas of state governments regarding revenue, the Centre allowed liquor shops to open in all zones. This announcement made liquor companies elated which are expecting an upsurge in demand after a tumultuous time.
The government said that liquor and paan shops can start functioning in green and orange zones. In red zones, these stores can function in non-containment areas. Only standalone stores will remain functional and not the ones in malls, the government underlined. Further, shop owners were asked to ensure a two-meter distance among customers. Not more than five people will be allowed to be present.
Pleased after the announcement, the alcohol industry said it will abide by all the guidelines of the Centre. The International Spirits and Wines Association of India (ISWAI), which has brands like Diageo India, Pernod Ricard, Beam Suntory, Bacardi as its members, said it will promote physical distancing. The body plans to start a program called "Safe Shield", said chairman Amrit Kiran Singh.
"As soon as the latest guidelines come into force, we will begin a program called 'Safe Shield' under which signs will be put outside all shops about social distancing, sanitizers would be placed, there will be 'contactless' sales through trays kept at counter," he said.
In the second phase, the body plans to partner with platforms like Swiggy and Zomato for online delivery. Talks with the government are on. "COVID-19 is going to stay for some time so we have to institutionalize 'Safe Shield' and home delivery measures into liquor retail sales. If we do this properly, 75% of revenue to states can come back," he added.
ISWAI revealed companies have already started production in states like UP, Assam, and Karnataka. Soon, sales of whiskey, rum, vodka, gin, and beer would begin. Some of the companies which are looking to re-start their businesses are Diageo, Pernod Ricard, Allied Blenders & Distillers, Brown-Forman, Bacardi, Mohan Meakin, and Radico Khaitan. Hygiene and other safety norms will be strictly followed.
Singh said revenue of Rs. 2.5 lakh crore or nearly Rs. 700 crore per day could be generated immediately. An MHA official told HT, "The decision to reopen standalone liquor stores across all three zones has been taken as part of resuming economic activity which is directly linked to the revenues of the states." However, states can still choose to not open these stores.
Similarly, Vinod Giri, the director-general of Confederation of Indian Alcoholic Beverage Companies (CIABC), said most of the large plants can resume production. "In any case, most of the distilleries are within rural areas or industrial zones, where the restrictions now are not heavy. These are in states such as Maharashtra, UP, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh," he told TOI.