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City in low spirits

Even as alcohol sales register a record 11% dip in Dec, wine and country liquor sales that weren't doing good business in the past have registered an increase

There's a sobering effect being felt in the city and the figures are officially proving that the city is no longer taking to the bottle.

In fact, Mumbaikars have reduced their intake of alcohol and this has been revealed by the recent figures released by the state excise department. According to the figures, in December -- the festive period that witnesses a hike in sales -- the sale of Indian made foreign liquor and beer dipped by almost 11 per cent as compared to December 2010.


Sobering effect: Hoteliers say that the soaring prices of alcohol and
the various taxes have caused them to lose considerable business.
Representation pic


A senior excise official revealing the sobering figures, said, "December is always the time where we notice an increase in sales. However, 2011, the situation was not the same as the sales were running into the negative, which was quite alarming not only for the industry but for the department too. The numbers prove that the hike in prices of alcohol has caused an inward effect on the sales of alcohol."

Numbers don't lie
In the suburbs, which houses most of the five-star restaurants and pubs, the consumption of liquor decreased by 27 lakh litres whereas in South Mumbai, the consumption of IMFL saw a fall of 13 lakh litres. Commenting on the loss of business, Sudhakar Shetty, president, Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHAR), said, "Time and again we have been notifying the department of the loss of business. People who preferred to drink IMFL have shifted to beer and several have opted for country liquor, which is not a good sign."

And it appears that Shetty's worry of people preferring to consume country liquor is not unfounded. According to figures, the sale of country liquor has seen a rise by 0.06 per cent in the city and 0.11 per cent in the city. "This clearly shows that more people in the city are opting for country liquor, as it has not seen a dip," grumbled Shetty.

Dipping figures
Hoteliers say that the only way to make the liquor flow again is to reduce the prices of alcohol. Hospitality experts say the soaring prices have been the main reason that people are opting to drink less, causing further losses.

"Prices of alcohol have soared to astronomical prices making it difficult for many to drink. Eventually, the hike in prices and the various taxes levied on permit rooms, have to be shouldered by customers," said a hotelier. "This has a direct impact on sales, as most people do not want to burn a hole in their pocket just for a drink."

And the dip in sales has had a direct impact on the sale of illicit liquor too. N N Mudiraj, superintendent (suburbs), excise, said, "In December, we seized illicit liquor worth Rs 39 lakh. We are doing everything in our capacity to stop the sale of illegal alcohol but owing to the rise in alcohol prices, more people are opting for beer, wine and country liquor."

However, as hoteliers are left crying over the dip in sales, it has been a win-win situation for wines and wineries.

The wine industry that was in a considerable debt for the last few years has seen a jump in sales by almost 22 per cent. The consumption of wine in the suburbs increased to 24,000 litres whereas in South Mumbai a 2,000-litre increase was seen.

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