SEVERAL HOTELS and restaurants have reached out to the Wine Traders Association to lift an embargo on liquor supply imposed by the association over non-payment of dues. Hotel and Restaurant Association (Western India) has also reached out to the state excise department and wrote to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Thursday in the matter.
Mumbai has more than 2,500 restaurant and bars. Several of these establishments which had purchased liquor from wine traders in January and February said their stock remained unsold due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown in Maharashtra since March. A bulk of the stock, including beer, also expired during these seven months.
Restaurant and bars owners claimed after they expressed their inability to make a full payment, the Wine Traders Association decided to stop liquor supply to several establishments in Mumbai after the state government finally gave a green signal to reopen in October.
In a letter on October 22, the Hotel and Restaurants Association (Western India) wrote to Wine Traders Association to immediately remove any embargo over non-payment issues. The H&RA has 5,000 members.
Pradeep Shetty, the owner of Maharaja Foods, said he has not received a fresh supply of liquor from various traders since October 5 when restaurants reopened. “I have started dine-in facility but since customers come to have both alcohol and food, we are missing out on many of them,” Shetty said. He added traders were asking for a no-objection certificate from their association before supplying liquor to any restaurant. “If I have cleared bill of one brand, they still won’t supply unless I clear bills of all other liquor brands. The association cannot make such arbitrary rules,” Shetty said.
According to Gurbaxshi Singh Kohli, spokesperson of Hotel and Restaurant Association, Mumbai has around 20 traders who distribute liquor to all hotels and restaurants. “Restaurants, which took huge supply before the pandemic, have asked traders to take back their stock, but they refused. We even approached the excise department over this issue. A lot of liquor stock is deadstock for us,” Kohli said. He added with huge facing financial losses, restaurants are finding it hard to make the payments. “This kind of collective action all over Maharashtra is an act of monopoly by them,” he said.
The Wine Traders Association has demanded pending payment for the supply made before the pandemic and for the stock bought just at the onset of the lockdown. Its traders have unanimously decided to stop supply to restaurants that default on even a single trader’s payment.
The traders have, however, agreed to supply to some restaurants after another association, Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association, approached them to make payments in instalments. Shivanand Shetty, president of Association of Hotels and Restaurants (AHAR) in Mumbai said they reached a settlement that 1,300 of their member restaurants in Mumbai will pay 50 per cent of the payment now and the remaining after a month. “The wine traders continue to supply to our member hotels,” he said.
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