Due to financial losses caused by the lockdown, rest-o-bar and permit room owners in Pune are unwilling to pay the annual excise licence renewal fee. Although it’s been over three months since the start of the fiscal year, as many as 75 per cent of bar owners have not paid the annual fee partially.
In March, the State Excise Department had allowed licence holders to pay the annual fee in three instalments – 25 per cent by June 30, 25 per cent by September 30 and the remaining 50 per cent by December 31, owing to business disruptions caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
After the lockdown was extended, the department had also extended the deadline by allowing the licence holders to pay the fee in two equal instalments – first by end of September 30 and second by December 31.
An annual licence renewal fee of Rs 8 lakh is paid by bar owners (holding FL-III license) at the start of the financial year. There are as many as 2,500 FL-III licence holders in Pune.
According to bar owners, these concessions in payment timings aren’t enough for them to tide over their losses. They are demanding a waiver of fee for the duration of the nationwide lockdown.
“Our demand is that the State Excise Department should charge the fee on pro-rate basis for the remainder of the year from the day of opening of bars and permit rooms,” said Ganesh Shetty, president of Pune Restauranteurs’ and Hoteliers’ Association (PRAHA).
Although the state government has eased restrictions on several other businesses by allowing them to operate, dine-in restaurants and bars are still waiting for approval to open. Pune, which is among the cities worst affected by Covid-19, is comparatively stricter in imposing the lockdown and the restrictions are likely to continue for much longer than in other districts.
Shetty said that PRAHA has written to the State Excise Commissioner, Excise Minister, Deputy Chief Minister as well as Chief Minister seeking relief.
“There has been no business for the past four months and it is impossible for bar owners to pay the excise fee, which is a big component of the monthly expenditure. It is only fair for us to demand that the fee be charged on pro-rata basis,” said Shetty.
Superintendent of State Excise Santosh Zagade said that since April 1, only 25 per cent licence holders have renewed the licence by paying the fee – or a portion of it – so far.
“The decision on demands raised by the licence holders will be taken on a higher level in Mumbai. We are trying to collect the requisite renewal fee as per the directives issued last month,” said Zagade.
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