The eve of the weekend curfew went into a dilemma as people queued to get their hands full of the most revenue-generating commodity in Delhi, which is liquor.
Stocks of many stores went empty while a few shut their shop early. Everyone assumed that the liquor would remain barred from sale till the period weekend lockdown is in force that is April 30.
“There is no clarity from the government. Our community members are telling us that liquor stores will be closed till April 30,” Sanjay Bhalla, manager at a Wine and Beer shop in Defence Colony said.
Sanjay said that the crowd outside the aforementioned shop started swelling as the sun started to set. The shop that lies beside a busy road witnessed a queue as long as 200 meters.
My friends told me that the liquor would not be available till month end so I’m here to buy my stock for the next two weeks,” 28-year-old Ashutosh Pandey, who was waiting for his turn in the queue, said.
Many stores imposed a limit on the purchase of liquor and beer as well since people started buying as many as six bottles of them. “We are only allowing two bottles per person. If not, we would not be able to serve to all those waiting in line,” Rajesh, who handles the counter at a liquor shop in Lajpat Nagar said while pointing to a huge line of prospective buyers.
When asked whether he received any official communication from the excise department, he signalled in negative. “It is circulated everywhere. Owner of this store told us in the afternoon,” he said.
Many shops had pasted a notice outside their shop stating that “All liquor stores in Delhi will remain closed till April 30”. However, they all said that they have not received any official communication from the government so far.
“We have been told that it (notice) will arrive shortly,” a store manager in Okhla phase I said.
Interestingly, no order from the Delhi government states about the closure of the liquor stores till April 30. However, the order of weekend curfew also does not mention the closure of liquor shops. Many store owners said that the dilemma must have stemmed from here only.
The Delhi government, however, clarified that shutdown of liquor stores till April 30 is merely a rumour.
“It is obvious that when only essential services are allowed and all the other things are closed, the wine and beer stores will also remain shut since they don’t fall into essential commodities. However, the bars and restaurants are open during weekdays. It means that liquor would be served there so the question of a shutdown of all liquor stores till the period of weekend curfew does not arise. If it was a case, the government would have mentioned or issued a separate order. This is all a rumour only,” the government’s spokesperson said.