The Bar Terminal, a bar and eatery next to the Bombay Stock Exchange, is hosting an ‘India wins’ party this Saturday to celebrate BJP’s victory in the Lok Sabha polls.
While the mood is celebratory, its owner Dev Sanghvi said multiple dry days—or, days when sale of liquor is prohibited—this year besides the polling dates and the counting day on Thursday have hit sales and sentiments hard.
Multiple dry days this year, particularly around the elections, have severely impacted food and beverages (F&B) sales in restaurants and hotels across the country, and many chains are now betting on special events and offers to partly make up for the fall in sales, industry insiders said.
“There have been too many dry days this year and still more to come as Maharashtra will also go to polls in October,” Sanghvi said. Many of the dry days were on weekends, hitting sales hard, he said. “Why do we have so many dry days? The excise department should think through this,” he said. “Countries around the world have changed. On these kinds of celebration days people drink even more.”
Sanghvi said he is planning many customer-oriented events like unplugged and DJ nights and advertising through messages to drive sales as other factors like higher excise fee have also impacted business. “We also have on the spot offers like shots at Rs 149 and special discounts on bottled rates depending on the walk-ins,” he said.
Sales have suffered as polling was on the weekend in Delhi and Gurgaon and Friday, Saturday and Sunday were all dry days, said Arpan Gupta, founder of Anglow Whisky Bar & Kitchen in Delhi’s Khan Market. “That was a major loss as 70% of our weekly sales are on weekends,” he added.
In West Bengal, there were three full dry days and two partly dry days, when liquor sales was prohibited for certain hours, this month due to the elections, severely impacting business.
“We have suffered heavily,” said Anjan Chatterjee, founder of Speciality Restaurants that runs restaurant chains such as Mainland China and Oh! Calcutta. “West Bengal was particularly sensitive, but we are present in 27 cities across India and everything went for a toss,” he said. “Our liquor driven outlets like Hoppipola across India saw a drop of 68-70% in sales on liquor prohibited days while food led outlets like Mainland China and Oh! Calcutta saw a drop of 28-30% in sales. The balance sheet is hit.”
Amrit Kiran Singh, executive chairman of International Spirits and Wine Association of India (ISWAI)—a representative body promoted by multinational alcoholic beverage companies such as Bacardi, Diageo-USL, Moet Hennessey, Pernod Ricard and William Grant— said dry days during elections is an example of a “nanny state mentality”.
He said the government has not kept pace with the evolution of voters in the country. “Indian voters are so sophisticated today that they vote differently for a state election and a general election on the same day,” Singh said. “This was on display even in one of the most backward states like Odisha in the recent elections when voters voted for BJD in the state elections and BJP in the general election. However, the government has not kept pace with this evolution.”
Dry days during elections means shutting down a business that contributes 30% of a state’s revenue for three days— two days during elections and one day for counting—across the entire country, Singh said. “This is a huge loss to state governments and the industry in equal measure.”
Hotels, too, had to seal and lock all alcohol in their storage areas on dry days. Besides F&B sales in their restaurants, this also hit mini bar sales. Maverik Mukerji, general manager at Accor’s Novotel hotels in Bengaluru and Mysuru, said mini bar accounts for 5-7% the total beverage sales of all Novotel hotels.
Akshay Sood, director of food and beverage at the Westin Mumbai Garden City, said beverage sales constitute about 36% of the hotel’s overall F&B revenue. “You also lose out as you cannot take a banqueting event on those days.”
Salil Fadnis, manager at Mumbai’s Sahara Star hotel near the airport, said it replaced alcohol with mango and kokum-based mocktails on counting and polling days.
To partly overcome the fall in sales, Jaypee Vasant Continental Hotel in Delhi is introducing a separate liquor package for Rs 1,000 plus taxes in its brunch menu from this Sunday. The package includes premium spirits like Chivas 12 years, Bacardi, Smirnoff, and Beefeater gin and cocktails. This is besides the customary pint of beer and a glass of sparkling wine usually served in the weekend brunch package. “Liquor sales suffered during dry days as fewer guests came,” said Dilawar Singh Nindra, general manager at the hotel.
London Taxi, a restaurant in Mumbai’s Lower Parel, will have a three plus one offer on beers this weekend, while gaming and entertainment arena Smaaash is extending its happy hours to Saturday and Sunday.