Liquormakers Bet on Crowd Management, Online Sales as Drunks Lurk in Stores

NEW DELHI: Alcohol makers promoted online liquor sales and crowd management in stores across the country and were ordered to close the blinds on Monday, with thousands of anxious people breaking the social distancing protocol.

As India entered the third phase of closure and some restrictions were lifted, major liquor stores that contributed to revenue were allowed to reopen after nearly 40 days apart under the new guidelines.

But many stores in parts of Delhi, West Bengal, Rajasthan, and Andhra Pradesh had to close a few minutes after they opened, as restless and nervous crowds crowded in, forgetting all about the social distancing rules necessary to avoid COVID-19.

Alcohol industry bodies such as All (AIDA), All India Brewers´Â Associationâ (AIBA) and Confederation of (CIABC) noted that there were reports and chaos in the liquor stores, which were opened on Monday because the product was absent from the market during the one and a half month ban during the blockade.

Some of them said they had already anticipated such a rush and suggested the government allow online liquor sales in the country, delivering the product to the consumer's door.

The entire Indian Distiller Association, while welcoming the government's move to allow liquor stores to be opened in the green areas, said local authorities should have controlled the crowd in the stores.

The government would have to control it, today we have witnessed great pressure on the shops and the local police, which was necessary to control the crowd, was not there. I also hope and expect the public to behave responsibly after the rules of social distancing, AIDA CEO VN Raina told PTI.

When asked about the amount of sales, Raina said that definitely, sales in urban areas were higher.

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The government needs revenue and the maximum revenue comes from the liquor industry, he said, adding that we hope the government will also allow liquor sales in the orange zone.

India's alcohol manufacturers' body, CIABC, said that when a much-desired product remains on the market after a nearly 40-day ban, it will appeal to many buyers.

This would happen to any industry, CIABC President General Director Vinod Giri said when asked about reports of people crowding the liquor stores.

He suggested that the government should allow online sales of liquor like other products. This would ensure compliance with social distance standards during the closing period as well.

If channels like online sales are allowed, the load on the store is reduced and many people would not need to go to the store, CIABC said.

AIBA CEO Shobhan Roy said the industry had already anticipated such a rush and had suggested to the government to allow online shopping in the liquor segment.

We have already suggested the delivery of liquor at home since we had anticipated that there would be haste and overcrowding. This can only help reduce footfalls at liquor stores, he said.

However, about the crowd and the violation of the laws, Roy said that people should be trained and should have patience for their turn.

I hope everyone will step back and take corrective action for what happened today, Roy said, adding that one has to figure out how this should be done. The land is in the hands of the administration.

When asked about the industry, Roy said the liquor industry contributes around Rs 2.5 lakh crore to state government treasurers.

The size of the industry is around 330 million cases of beer (9 liters each), 350 million cases of liquors and 300 million cases of liquors in the country.

India is undergoing an unprecedented complete blockade since March 25, to prevent the spread of the virus. On Friday, the government extended it for two weeks from May 4 with certain relaxations.

According to the latest updates from the health ministry, India has more than 42,800 cases of Covid-19 and more than 1,350 have lost their lives.

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