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Maharashtra leads; will others follow?

Maharashtra leads; will other follow?

The beleaguered alcohol industry in Maharashtra had something to cheer about with the state Excise Department allowing the sale of beer for home consumption by craft and micro-breweries.

This comes close on the heels of its order allowing hotels and restaurants to sell their stock of alcohol for off-premises consumption (except in Mumbai, where the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation has prohibited the sale of alcohol).

Earlier, the Karnataka government, in a move that allowed businesses to generate some revenue during the lockdown, had permitted micro-breweries to sell up to 2 litres of beer in growlers, to clear existing stocks.

While the Karnataka government’s move was on an experimental, one-time basis, the Maharashtragovernment has become the first state to allow the permanent sale of craft beer in growlers.

What has compounded the good news is that the rules have also been amended to allow craft breweries to increase the amount of beer they produce, from 2 lakh litres to 5 lakh litres per year.

Filling stations

As per the amendments to the Bombay Foreign Liquor Rules and the Special Permits and Licenses Rules, micro-breweries will be allowed to sell beer in growlers via restaurants and bars, as well as set up their growlerfilling stations.

The law defines a growler as ‘a jar or container of at least 1litre, but not more than 5litres, made of any suitable food-grade material. A beer growler can be made of metal, glass or PET.

Growler filling stations will have to be set up by the industry very much in line with the ‘wine shops’ that dot the landscape in Maharashtra. This will allow pretty much anyone to go and fill up their growlers, much like filling gas in your cars.

It will be a game-changer for the industry which, till now, had to depend on restaurant and bars for sales.

The ground reality of setting up such growlerfilling stations is, however, more sobering. Starting from temperature-controlled kegs, the requirements will include special growlerfilling taps that allow the right carbonation in the beer, and will require a sizeable investment in these hard times.

Beer guzzlers,meanwhile, will have to invest in growlers that are essentially 1 litre brown or dark coloured bottles to carry their favourite brew home!

Home delivery

With stores closed, the absence of a streamlined, loophole-free delivery system for alcohol has led to huge losses to government coffers, and this is one area that has been closely looked into.

To avoid crowding outside liquor outlets and to push-start revenue generation, the Central government has suggested that states could consider home delivery of alcohol. The Supreme Court has also sided with the continued sale of liquor in all states through this system.

Nudged by the Centre, some states have quickly taken off the block; others are being more cautious and still weighing the pros and cons. Delhi has found middle ground by working out an e-token system that allows consumers to buy the liquor of their choice at specified stores and within a specified time window.

Other states, meanwhile, have gone the whole hog topermit home delivery apps such as Amazon, Swiggy,Zomato and Big Basket to do the ‘last mile’ honours!Tamil Nadu has gone one step further and introduced its own TASMAC Online App.

In West Bengal, consumers can place orders through the State Beverages Corporation (BEVCO) subject to their being over 21 years of age. (https://excise.wb.gov.in/eRetail/). In Odisha, consumers can login and register at the state’s beverage corporation’s website (https://osbc.co.in/Onlinepay/Retail) to place orders.

In Punjab, you can have alcohol delivered home with each neighborhood being allocated a delivery window and only registered delivery persons, with proper identity documents are allowed to deliver.

The Chhattisgarh government has also set up a website (https://excise.cg.nic.in/csmcl/) or one has to download the CSMCL Online on Google Play Store. Consumers can order up to 5 litres of liquor, but a delivery charge is levied on each order.

The Maharashtra government has allowed for the e-token system for liquor stores, except in Mumbai. For initiating home delivery system that has a cap of 12 litres, one has to login on http://www.mahaexcise.com/.