Grappling with the COVID-induced restrictions for almost two years, restaurants and bars in Maharashtra have suffered yet another jolt, with the state excise department raising the annual levy.
The department has increased the annual excise fees levied on all bars by 15 percent, reported The Times of India, citing a gazette notification issued on January 28. For wine shops, the fee has been increased by as much as 70 percent, it said.
With this increment, the annual fee for bars has been revised from Rs 6.93 lakh to Rs 7.97 lakh, as per the report. For wine shops, the revision hikes the fees to Rs 21 lakh from Rs 15 lakh earlier, it said.
The hike has come at a time amid the request from bars and restaurants owners to give a 50 percent waiver to cope with the losses that occurred due to a series of COVID-19 lockdowns in the state.
The move has been condemned by the Indian Hotel and Restaurant Association (AHAR).
According to the report, the apex body of the industry has said that the hike would be a big blow to the sector, which is already suffering due to frequent lockdowns imposed by Maharashtra to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.
AHAR has sought a 50 percent waiver in permit room or bar licence fees to support the beleaguered industry, it said. Instead, the administration is announcing such “recessionary and debilitating” steps that will further dent the industry, it said.
"We have all the reasons to doubt the intention of the government in supporting the industry. How is the industry expected to survive such onslaughts, which are killing the industry that generates maximum employment opportunities and also revenue for the government?" AHAR president Shivanand Shetty was quoted as saying.The government’s notification has come days after the state cabinet’s decision to allow the sale of wine in supermarkets and walk-in stores across Maharashtra. The decision was taken to give a boost to fruit-based wineries which provide additional income to farmers, Minister for Skill Development Nawab Malik had told reporters.