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India. Freshly brewed beer remains a dream for Delhi

A freshly brewed pint of beer on a hot summer day would sound good to many, but Delhiites will have to wait as the government’s policy for micro-breweries remains lost in paperwork.

Small breweries and craft beers have gained popularity over the past decade across the country.

Neighbouring Gurgaon’s micro-breweries have been drawing business from across the National Capital Region as Delhi and Uttar Pradesh are yet to get their own.

Delhi allows micro-breweries to be set up, at least on paper. But, none have come up in the 10 months since the Aam Aadmi Party government issued a public notice allowing hotels, restaurants and airports to set up micro-breweries with the capacity to produce 1,000 litres of draught beer per day.

The Excise Department notified the policy in June last year, but the “brewery and potable spirits” figure on the list of “prohibited/negative list of industries” in the Master Plan of Delhi-2021. The Delhi Development Authority would need to make an amendment to the list to allow micro-breweries.

Sources in the government said that the policy had been sent to the DDA, but there had been no progress. Senior DDA officials, meanwhile, said they were not aware of the policy.

They did not want to be quoted in order to avoid getting drawn into the tussle between the AAP government and the Centre.

The DDA answers to the Union Government’s Urban Development Ministry.

Also, Delhi’s Excise Commissioner Sanjay Kumar and Deputy Commissioner (Excise) Praveen Mishra both declined to comment.

Restaurateurs, who had been lobbying the government to allow micro-breweries, say that other States went around this by defining micro-breweries as not being covered under the existing zoning norms.

Prakul Kumar, secretary-general of the National Restaurant Association of India, said that though it was taking long, the industry was waiting for the policy to be implemented on ground.

“We have to be patient. The government has its own procedures. It has been a long haul, but there are people who are eagerly waiting to set up micro-breweries as Delhi is losing that business to Gurgaon,” said Mr. Kumar.

The Excise Department, however, gave a licence to the IGI Airport to set up a micro-brewery in July 2015. Airport officials say the project is still in the works.

The municipal corporations, which issue health trade licences to restaurants and bars, also seem to be clueless.

Ashish Sood, Leader of the House of the South Delhi Municipal Corporation, said: “We have not received any file from the government on micro-breweries. The AAP is pushing its anti-drugs and alcohol agenda in Punjab, but encouraging alcohol in Delhi.”

That being said, the AAP government wasn’t the first to come up with this proposal. The Sheila Dikshit government had also proposed changes to the excise policy to allow micro-breweries in hotels.

Ms. Dikshit told The Hindu that her government’s policy ended up getting some backlash. “We had decided to allow micro-breweries in hotels. There was support, but there was also a lot of criticism. We decided to hold it off till there was consensus,” she said.

She added that the AAP government had expanded the policy to include restaurants and hotels, but lacked details. “What kind of hotels are they talking about? Can those with 10 rooms also apply? What about restaurants? Is there a minimum criteria,” asked the former Chief Minister.

With the authorities mum, the policy to allow micro-breweries appears to be forgotten for now.

12 Apr. 2016

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