Liquor outlets in Bengal run out stock, down shutters

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Off-shop liquor licensees in West Bengal on Sunday said most outlets that were allowed to reopen during the lockdown have downed their shutters after running out of stock.

The West Bengal government took the decision to reopen the shops in red, green and orange zones, barring the containment areas, but there was inadequate backend support for logistics, they alleged.

A former office bearer of the West Bengal Foreign Liquor Manufacturers, Wholesalers and Bonders Association told PTI that the shops generally keep three to four days of stock.

“Due to inadequate logistics support, replenishment of stock is not taking placce and scattered sales are reported across the state. The situation is absolutely chaotic,” he said, adding that manufacturing of spirits and beer in state’s distilleries and breweries had started only two days back.

Following imposition of 30 per cent sales tax, companies have also been taking time to supply liquor bottles with new MRP to warehouses of the West Bengal State Beverages Corporation (BEVCO), he said.

“This also creates problem in the supplies of liquor to the shops. The entire supply chain is disturbed,” the former official of the licensees’ body said.

Of around 500 shops in the city, roughly 50 remained open in the last two days, he said, adding that the scenario is “more or less the same in other parts of the state”.

“I think the problem will persist for another 45 days before the supply chain gets normal,” said a present office bearer of the association.

Most orders are being placed for 750 ml bottles while demand for lower quantities is less in both offline and online segments, he said.

Owing to hefty increase in MRP, bottles of upscale liquor brands are not sold much, the official said.

He said only 30 per cent of the liquor shop owners across the state were able to keep their outlets open.

An official of the liquor shop and hotel owners’ association said almost all the shops were closed on Saturday and sales were “negligible since Friday”.

“Some sales are happening online, but the response is poor,” she said.

There are around 3,500 liquor shops in the state, she added.

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