NEW DELHI: Uncertainty prevailed over the availability of liquor in the national capital as the private liquor stores in Delhi were scheduled to shut shop from Monday after the expiry of their licences.
Sources, however, claimed that Delhi government was likely to come out with a notification by late Sunday night, allowing liquor stores currently running in the city to remain open till August end.
"This was needed as the government has decided to revert to old excise policy regime and run stores through its agencies, a process that could create shortage and chaos as the new shops will take days to open," said a government source.
The government on Saturday announced reverting back to the old excise regime and running stores for six months.
Under the Excise Policy 2021-22, 468 retail liquor stores were running in the city whose licences will expire after July 31.
Many liquor vends in the city, however, were closed after selling out stocks through rebates and special schemes like buy one get two free.
"There is some more liquor and beer available and people are coming to get whatever they can. Those asking for specific brands have returned back empty-handed also," said a liquor store manager in Laxmi Nagar.
The rush was more on Saturday but with liquor stores running out of stock, customers have now started looking to neighbouring Noida, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon and Faridabad for their quota, said a customer Vivek outside a closed liquor vend in Delhi's Shekh Sarai.
A banker from Mayur Vihar Extension said he used to get his favourite brands available locally but now the stocks were run out.
"The shops in the nearby mall have run out of stock and left with almost nothing. Now, I will ask friends in Noida, and Gurgaon to keep me stocked up till shops here run normally again," he said.
Meanwhile, the Delhi government Corporations that were earlier in retail business of liquor before new Excise Policy 2021-22 was implemented in November 2021, have started activating their system to open liquor stores.
The four corporations-DSIIDC, DTTDC, DCCWS and DSCSC- ran 475 liquor stores out of a total 864 in Delhi under the old excise policy regime. The private store licences held by individuals numbered 389.
"A DSIIDC official informed that around 90 shops of liquor were run by the Corporation on rent. Several of those rented premises are still vacant where the liquor stores can be opened. But the whole process from getting requisite licences and placing the order for stocks will take 4-5 days," he said.
Another Corporation DTTDC has also contacted around 40 owners of private premises where it earlier operated liquor stores. Prior to the new excise policy 2021, DTTDC ran 122 shops liquor, officials said.
The Excise Policy 2021-22 extended by the government till July 31 was withdrawn in the backdrop of a CBI probe recommended by the Lt Governor into alleged violation of rules and procedural lapses in its implementation.
The policy was extended twice since April this year, as the government was still working on a revised excise policy for 2022-23 for which necessary approvals were yet to be taken.
Under the Excise Policy, the government had issued retail licences for 849 vends across the city divided into 32 zones. Currently, only 468 were running whose licences will expire on July 31 as the policy has been withdrawn by the government.
With new policy gone, the excise licences issued to hotels, clubs and restaurants having bars, and wholesale operations will also become redundant apart from private run liquor stores in the city.
It means, there will be virtually no liquor supply from the wholesalers to the entire hospitality sector and retail vends in the city after July 31, till some alternate arrangements are made by the government, liquor trade experts claimed.
Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia who also holds Excise portfolio had said announcing withdrawal of Excise policy on Saturday that the Chief Secretary was directed to ensure that there was no "chaos" in the city during the transition period before opening of government liquor stores.
The Chief Secretary was also asked for keeping a check on the sale of illegal alcohol in the city in the meantime, Sisodia had said.