The National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) estimates that over 500 bars, restaurants, and pubs in the national capital are currently unable to serve alcohol. This is due to the fact that their excise license applications are stuck in different stages of processing across various government departments. It’s worth noting that the delay is primarily attributed to stages preceding the excise department’s involvement in the licensing process, rather than issues within the excise department itself.
Eateries are expressing concern over the lack of progress, but authorities insist that they adhere to established timelines for issuing permits.
Meanwhile, these establishments are facing the challenge of not being able to serve alcohol during the industry’s busiest quarter.
This situation is resulting in job layoffs, financial losses, and a growing negative sentiment against the business expansion.
Restaurateurs mentioned that the main obstacle was the mandatory eating house registration certificate issued by the licensing department of the Delhi Police.
“The delay is not because of the excise department,” said Priyank Sukhija, chief executive of First Fiddle Restaurants. “We are unable to get the eating house registration certificate issued by Delhi Police.” He said he has been waiting eight to 10 months to get eating house licences for two sites in the city.
First Fiddle manages well-known establishments under brands like Lord of the Drinks, Miso Sexy, Diablo, Tamasha, and The Flying Saucer Café.
To obtain an excise license, approvals from the police, fire services, the Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC), the municipal corporation, and the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) are all necessary.
Rajneesh Malik, a well-known restaurateur associated with Sidewok, is currently awaiting the eating house registration certificate for his Sangam Courtyard establishment in New Delhi. He mentioned that he has been unable to serve alcohol at this location since June.
“In 2021-22, the Delhi excise policy was altered. Under the new policy, an eating house registration certificate was not required for an excise licence. But now we have gone back to the old policy,” he said.
Rahul Singh, founder of The Beer Café, points out that the requirement is specific to New Delhi. “Delhi needs to relook at this provision, which will enable ease of doing business and reduce the burden on the police force as well,” he said. The chain operates out of 23 cities across India.
Nonetheless, Joint Commissioner of Police for Licensing, Bhola Shankar Jaiswal, stated that there have been no delays on their part.
“Lieutenant Governor (Vinai Kumar Saxena) has made it clear that everything has to be done in 49 days. All the authorities have been given specific timelines and if the required documents and applications are in place, establishments can get the licences in even 30 days,” he said.
“We want people to get their licences as soon as possible. We are issuing the eating house registration certificates as soon as we get all the required documents,” he said.
Singh from The Beer Café highlighted that obtaining a police eating house registration for serving pizza requires providing 24 documents, whereas applying for a firearm license only necessitates eight documents.
As of the time of press, emails sent to NDMC, Municipal Corporation of Delhi, DPCC, and the Department of Delhi Fire Services have not received a response.
Sandeep Anand Goyle, who leads the Delhi chapter of NRAI, emphasized that the association is actively working to address these delays and is in the process of arranging essential meetings. Goyle also holds the position of director at Essex Farms.
At the moment, though, it appears that these delays are negatively impacting the sentiment of restaurateurs.
“We are opening more restaurants in Noida and Gurgaon, but not in Delhi,” said Sukhija of First Fiddle, calling for an end to the roadblocks.
“I spent a substantial amount towards rents and salaries for these restaurants, which are not getting the licences. I can’t run restaurants without a bar,” he said. “Eventually, I have had to let go of people.”
Malik from Sidewok mentioned that the eatery possesses an excise license, but the ability to place new orders for alcohol has been disabled.
“I have paid over INR 16 lakh of excise licence fee, but I am unable to serve alcohol. From a mathematical perspective, it’s a bigger revenue loss for the government in terms of repercussions on VAT and GST, the possibility of employment generation, and even considering the prospects of opening more outlets in the city,” he said.