Some popular nightclubs and pubs in the city are set to be slapped with a fine by the Collector for flouting excise norms, such as not maintaining a record of liquor sales. Quite a few places were even found underreporting their liquor stock.
On September 8, the State Excise Department took a decision to wield an iron fist to ensure bars and pubs in the city were not using liquor on which duty had been evaded.
What came as a surprise during the drive was that some pubs were showing unnaturally low liquor stock, something that had not been noticed before.
Nineteen high-end pubs and discos were raided, with the department deciding to send excise officials from the suburbs on surprise checks to joints in the island city and vice versa.
The initial report prepared by officials showed that many bars were not even properly maintaining a logbook, while some bars were found to be keeping unrealistically low stock. “In the city, 19 permit rooms were raided and a majority of them were found violating some excise norm or the other,” a senior excise official said. “Especially surprising was the finding that quite a few leading bars had liquor stock that was unusually low. No bar can have such low stock. We could find no concrete reason for this unusual trend.”
Raids were conducted at clubs in Andheri and other suburban areas.
“Overall liquor sales are down by almost 40 per cent, thanks to the raids conducted by the Social Service Branch as well as the (high) liquor prices. So, to check if these joints were purposely showing low sales, this surprise checks were made,” the official said. “Also, we wanted to see if duty-evaded Scotch was being used. The final report is submitted to the Collector and he is empowered to take action or penalise the violators.”
On the swapping of the suburban and the island city teams, the officer said: “It was done just to avoid any kind of problem arising out of sending the same ward officers on the raid as before. We thought it would be better to swap, and anyway such a thing would not harm the investigation in any manner.”
The official’s juniors were not as enthusiastic about the raids as him.
“We are asked why sales are down, but if such raids are conducted it is definitely going to affect sales,” a junior official said. “But all we can do is follow orders.”
It was reported in MiD DAY earlier that low sales and resultant losses had forced over 100 pubs and bars in the state to shut shop.
According to Excise Department figures, establishments in the suburbs were harder hit than those in the island city. About 50 permit rooms (FL-III) shut down in the suburbs, whereas 25 in the city did not renew their licences.
“Police harassment in the last one year has also been a contributing factor,” a restaurant owner said. “We hope that the Excise Department does not pull up everyone and anyone. We are not against it launching a drive against defaulters, but we hope the innocent business owners are not harassed.”
Did you know?
The excise department collected Rs 8,601.32 crore in 2011-12, over Rs 2,800 crore more than 2010-11 figure of Rs 5,800 crore.