Home delivery of liquor does not seem to be the most favourable option for people in Maharashtra as they probably find it unreliable and prefer buying their alcohol across the counter. According to state excise department figures, during the shutdown, customers in Maharashtra registered up to 60,000 home delivery orders per day, which dropped to 2500 daily once the shops reopened last year, The Times of India reported. Between May 15, 2020 and March 31, 2021, Maharashtra recorded around 60 lakh home deliveries.
Despite allowing home delivery, beer sales fell 30 per cent in fiscal 2020-21 compared to fiscal 2019-20, as individuals decided to switch to spirit and wine instead of chilled drinks due to the corona threat. Over the 2019-20 fiscal year, IMFLs and Wines recorded the lowest declines of 5 and 6.6 per cent, respectively, while national liquor sales fell by 9 per cent.
In Maharashtra, home delivery of booze is permitted only while the state is under lockdown. “So far it is not a long term policy but a temporary measure to ensure availability of liquor, keep state revenue going and ensure social distancing. Any long-term policy decision regarding home delivery will have to be taken by the state cabinet,” said Valsa Nair Singh, principal secretary, state excise and tourism.
During the lockdown period, only licence holders’ shops and bars are authorised to deliver liquor to customers’ homes until 8 pm. In the event of a lockdown, the same deadline of 10 pm applies. “However, issues such as reliability of delivery by a third person, especially fear of duplication of costly liquor bottles, are evident from the statistics of daily deliveries during and after lockdowns,” a senior state official said. He also pointed out that if a long-term policy is to be devised, conflicts between shops and home delivery aggregators who also want authority to supply liquor must be resolved.
Another senior excise official stated that quality delivery cannot be guaranteed at home, and third-party distribution is much riskier.
Happy with the government’s decision, Sumit Chawla, vice president of the association of progressive retail liquor vendors association, said, “Since we show owners across the state have our dedicated lot of customers with whom there is a bond of trust, we don’t want to lose it by bringing third party. Vendors are capable of doing the delivery through their own staff who too are known to customers. Since it is our staff the responsibility of delivering quality is upon us. By bringing in third party we don’t want to leave any scope of mistrust between us and our customers.”