At a time when liquor stores are not allowed to deliver alcohol and restaurants can’t serve it, here’s what can be done to improve the general state of things
Even as we are all confuddled by the intensity and seriousness of this pandemic, I am ever more flummoxed by the laws that govern the sale of alcohol in our state. Actually, I am always alarmed by the rules and legislation—it’s almost as if we are still stuck somewhere following the laws set by Chanakya in Arthashastra for governing taverns back in the day. So this time around, in phase nth of the lockdown, when liquor stores are not being allowed to deliver alcohol and restaurants are being allowed to sell and serve food but not alcohol, I find myself trying to find a corner to hide in and weep for logic in this circular argument of a room!
I have found no reason that can be considered rational or sensible and yet we remain subservient to the word of the law. In fact, I hope that someone relevant reads this and instead of hating me for it does something to remedy the situation. I am sure the state coffers wouldn’t mind the extra revenue that letting restaurants serve drinks or a liquor shop delivering within a short radius would bring in.
But that’s not all. There can be other measures to improve the general state of things. And since no-one asked, allow me to be a true backseat-driver-currently-on-the-lockdown-couch kind and share what we can do to ameliorate the situation.
Utilising open spaces: Markets around parks should be allowed to use the public spaces to set up tables after a certain time in the evening. Not only will it allow them to function more sustainably, it will also create safer options for clients who wish to dine out.
Alcohol delivery: Be it retail shops or restaurants, delivery shouldn’t remain a taboo any more. People like their drinks. Let’s accept that and move on, India. No, it doesn’t get in the way of tradition. Yes, it makes family much easier to bear.
Extended licences: Given that one entire quarter has gone by with possibly no billings for many a hospitality setup, it might be the right thing to do to extend all licences for a similar period into the next year. The gesture would give a fighting chance to many an outlet which is still teetering on the verge of shutting down permanently sometime soon or in the near future.
No more Covid tax: The idea was too knee-jerk the first time around, or ever, so let’s not go down that route again.
Paperless regime: From renewal processes to applications for new licensees, the more online and virtual we can keep things, the faster they will move and, hopefully, minus the extra “sundry expenses” that many a fraught businessman has to incur while trying to expedite things in person at the offices. Enough said.
Grocer’s soft alcoholic beverage licence: It was a lovely thing to be able to pick up some beer and wine while out shopping for groceries. Sadly, that licence went away. It would be a good idea to revive it because the more outlets we have, the more socially distanced and quicker the task of buying alcohol will be.
Also, these shops were much fancier and better stocked than the average ‘English wine and beer theka’.
Larger home limits: Allowing people to keep more stock at home would definitely boost sales. And the argument that it would lead to people drinking more is a faulty one. Nobody stopped them buying and drinking a lot on the same day. A bigger store would just bring more civility to the whole exercise.
BYO: I have always made a case for BYO, bring your own. Restaurants can charge me corkage for serving me my own alcohol and this can then be part passed on to the excise department. It would make dining out a lot more pleasant and also force outlets to price their ware more sensibly, which is, frankly, a whole other can of worms for another day.
The writer is a sommelier