Liquor outlets in Kerala to open on May 28; new app to regulate customers


Thiruvananthapuram, May 27: Over two months after liquor outlets in Kerala were closed due to the nationwide COVID-19 induced lockdown, the Kerala government on Wednesday decided to open them across the state on May 28, using a new app to regulate customers.

Using the mobile app, people will receive an e-token to book the time slot to visit the nearest outlet and this would reduce the crowds seen earlier, State Excise Minister T P Ramakrishnan said. The state-run liquor outlets and other bar and beer and wine shops were closed since March 24, when the centre declared nationwide lockdown to contain spread of COVID-19.

"The state-run outlets in Kerala are crowded under normal circumstances and in today's scenario, it cannot be allowed. A new system, using a mobile application, will be used to book the time slot to purchase the liquor. This is a virtual queue system," he told reporters The new application ,'BevQ', will be available in Play store from Wednesday evening and the sale will begin on May 28 from 9 am to 5 pm. "The sales will be only to those who have the token and at a time only five people should be there are the outlets," he said.

Ramakrishnan also said that an individual can purchase liquor only oncein four days and requested people not to come to the outlets without the e-token. To a question, Ramakrishnan said the government does not have any plans for home delivery of liquor.

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The Minister said that apart from 301 state-run outlets in the state, 576 out of the total 613bar hotels in Kerala have also agreed to the terms and conditions put forward by the state government to sell liquor.

"Bars and hotels will have special counters to sell liquor at Kerala State Beverages (Manufacturing & Marketing) Corporation Ltd (BEVCO) rate," he said. He made it clear that there would not be any sale, other than parcel services, at bar hotels. Dismissing the corruption charges levelled by the Opposition in granting permission to a company which developed the app, he said the firm was selected by an expert panel of the government's Start up Mission. The panel received 29 proposals, of which five were short listed.

"Another committee considered the technical aspects and the price quoted by the companies and this particular one was selected. They had quoted Rs 2.83 lakh," the Minister said. He also said that customers at the outlets would be charged 50 paise to meet SMS charge to the service provider, the rent for the Cloud service and regular maintenance expenses.

The state government had on May 13 increased the price of liquor by 10-35 per cent to shore up its revenue as it is facing a severe financial crisis due to the COVID-19 induced lockdown. The cabinet recommended a 10 per cent tax hike for beer and wine and 35 per cent for all other categories of liquor.

At present, the sales tax on IMFL is 202 per cent for brands priced up to Rs 400 and 212 per cent for brands above that. With the new rates, this will increase to 237 per cent and 247 per cent respectively. Despite the high tax, Kerala has the highest per capita consumption of liquor in the country.