Nilesh Jadhav,a second year B.Com student at a well-known college in the city,is enjoying his summer vacation and was looking forward to having his usual quota of beer with friends at his favourite bar in Kalyani Nagar. But since Tuesday,this routine was broken,but not quite the way the government would have wanted it.
As Pune district went to the polls on Thursday,tipplers in the city were expected to endure three consecutive days without their elixir. The Election Commission had declared Tuesday,Wednesday and Thursday (till 5 pm) as dry days in a bid to ensure that people remained sober in the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections. Three dry days in a row is harsh. But we had stacked up in advance. Also we knew where to find liquor on these dry days, Jadhav said.
Clearly,quite a few wine shops and bars had made provisions for their loyal patrons,who ensured that the cash registers kept ringing through the dry spell. Liquor was available though not readily in several areas across the city,albeit at a higher price than usual.
The owner of a liquor retailer in Koregaon Park area said,Though we have been officially closed since Monday night,we have sold liquor worth at least Rs one lakh to some privileged customers over the last three days. Since many people had stashed away their regular quota,liquor sales had shot up by around 15 per cent since last Friday. And since we were expecting a lull in sales,we have cashed in on the dry day scenario by charging more than usual.
While beer and wine were in high demand,with sales increasing by around 15 per cent,rum and whisky sales were rather subdued,he said. Beer is a favourite,owing to the sweltering heat. We have run short of most foreign brands. Some of the low-end brands too have been moving fast, he said,adding that a bottle of beer,which usually costs between Rs 55 and Rs 80 depending on the brand,fetched up to Rs 150.
The manager of another liquor retailer said,Liquor sales have gone up because of the dry spell. People buy extra quantity. In fact,the owner of a restaurant in Aundh that does not have a bar licence,resorted to selling alcohol from his car,which he parked outside the building,charging more than double the usual rates.
Some restaurant-cum-bars too found ways to serve alcohol on the sly. The captain at a popular resto-bar in the city said,We cannot afford to lose out on business in these lean times,when people are adopting cost-cutting measures and eating out less. If a customer asks for a drink on dry days,we dont say no but are discreet about it. Serving beer is dicey but hard liquor mixed with aerated drinks or water does not arouse suspicion.
According to a senior state excise department official,there are around 950 liquor outlets in the city,including approximately 200 beer shops,130 wine stores and 100 country liquor shops,while the remaining are permit rooms. While around 96,500 litres of alcohol are purchased by Puneites (in the city) each day,over 1,92,500 litres of liquor (beer,country,IMFL) is sold across Pune district daily, he said,adding that he was not aware of any sale during the dry days.
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