Sitting on a liquor stockpile of around Rs 3,000 crore, restaurants and hotels across the country are asking state governments to allow them to sell the stock lying with them due to the coronavirus lockdown.
"We are truly living in unprecedented times where on one hand we are sitting with expensive liquor inventory and on the other hand, we are cash starved," National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) President Anurag Katriar said.
The industry sees a ray of hope as many states have permitted sales of retail alcohol.
"We request every state government to allow us an opportunity to sell our liquor stocks, preferably through home delivery model.
"This will help us deplete our stocks, raise some money to take care of urgent people needs and will still be compliant to social distancing norms. We understand that this may require some amendments to the law but I am sure it can be carried out under the current extraordinary circumstances," Katriar said.
In similar vein, The Beer Cafe founder and CEO Rahul Singh said liquor sales in India take place through three licenced verticals -- retail, horeca (hotels, restaurants and catering) and canteen stores department.
The total horeca licenced places are around 30,000 in the country and "at any given time, the stock in hand would be for 1 month. Which means that due to lockdown, the total unsold inventory lying at various horeca outlets across India would be around Rs 3,000 crore," he added.
While retail sales of liquor are opening, the service industry continues to be in limbo, he said.
"What we are asking the state governments is simple. All we are asking is to allow us to sell our stock on a temporary basis. We would like to sell our stock," Singh said.
Every country in the world has done this and it is also needed to be done here, he added.
"At least allow us to sell this stock that is with us of around Rs 3,000 crore and get liquidity to pay wages and government should make temporary amendments to the rules. It will also ease the queues at the retail outlets," he added.
The Supreme Court had on May 8 asked states to consider non-direct contact or online sales and home delivery of liquor during the lockdown period to prevent the spread of coronavirus on account of crowding at the shops.