Vends delay surety pay, liquor provide hit

GURUGRAM: Haryana’s problem with supply, especially of beer, appears to be compounding. Shops, especially restaurants, seem to have taken a hit after yearly formalities began, including updating of the excise portal eGRAS (electronic government receipts accounting system). Issuing of labels also seems to be taking longer than usual. Restaurateurs say despite repeated assurances for the last 15 days, things are far from getting back on track.
said normalcy could return in the coming week, once all vendors deposit their surety amounts. However, sources said eGRAS has held back issuing transport permits (TPs) to all restaurants as some vends have delayed their surety payments.

For example, a senior excise official said that payment made by the wholesale vend closest to had arrived, but restaurateurs still can’t buy liquor from it, as eGRAS is not issuing them TPs. “Even after paying our license fees and rent, while we can’t buy TPs, which allows us to buy liquor from vends in large quantities, retail customers can buy liquor. We also have to cover other costs amid dropping revenue,” said Rahul Singh, president of National Restaurants Association of India, who also owns the chain. While some bars have stocked up on hard liquor, beer being perishable makes it difficult to store, they said.

Excise officials maintain the first 10-odd days at the beginning of every financial year is generally chaotic — it takes time to collect surety and security amounts from vend owners who delay upon what could run into Rs 20 crore. “This is not a small amount and vendors need time to arrange it,” said H C Dahiya, deputy excise and taxation commissioner, Gurugram (west). “We’ve started receiving deposits, and are updating the system. Restaurants will start getting their supply soon,” he said.

The problem, though, won’t end soon, as a number of brands are yet to get their labels approved by the excise department headquarters in Panchkula. Popular brands such as Bira and imported beers are yet to get licenses approved from the excise headquarters, which will further delay supply. “Even if the portal gets fixed tomorrow, we won’t get adequate supply because labels are yet to be approved,” said a bar owner who wished to remain anonymous.

Molecule, a bar and brewery in Sector 29, is running low on its stock of bottled liquor, and surviving on its brewery. “Since we’re a microbrewery, we can serve our own beer, but our bottled stock is depleting fast,” said Manish Sharma, the owner.

The arrest of Lakeforest Wines owner Neeraj Sachdeva, who bagged this year’s license for imported liquor, for defrauding the Faridabad excise department, has restaurateurs further worried. After he was arrested on Friday, he was sent on judicial custody to Nemka jail on Monday. DSP Dinesh Yadav of the CM’s Flying Squad, who is heading the probe, said the fraud was restricted to Faridabad, where Sachdeva and co-accused Virender Singh and Girish, were involved in evading excise duty. “While Sachdeva evaded paying Rs 15,22,800, Virender and Girish evaded paying over Rs 70-73 lakh in 2017-18,” Yadav added. “We are still investigating the role of excise officials,” he said.

Gurugram officials denied any wrong doing in the city. There were a few technical issues with uploading of the ‘GR number’, but no discrepancy with money, they said.

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