The Delhi government has directed all state-run alcohol outlets to maintain sufficient stocks to deal with a possible shortage in the coming days as all private liquor shops are set to shut shop by September 30, officials said.
Under the New Excise Policy, around 260 privately-run liquor vends in the city will close down on September 30. Of the near-850 liquor shops in Delhi, only those operated by the Delhi government agencies will continue retail sale till November 16.
New players who have got licences through open bidding will enter the market and operate the 850 vends from November 17.
Consumers have started experiencing the shortage as the private shops are winding up their businesses.
At one of the private liquor shops in east Delhi, several customers were seen returning empty-handed as whisky and vodka brands were unavailable there.
"Our owner has asked us to sell whatever stock is there and lock the shop. We have already sold all other liquors and are now only left with beer," said a worker managing the sale counter of the vend.
The liquor stores in Mayur Vihar's Star City Mall are also rapidly emptying their shelves before putting their shutters down permanently.
"We are sorry to turn back our regular customers as stocks are depleting. We stopped restocking and placing fresh orders after it was decided by the government to close private shops," said manager of a liquor store at the mall.
A senior Excise department officer said steps are being taken to ensure that there is no shortage of liquor by strengthening retail sales from government vends.
"It's a transition period of one and a half months after which things will become normal. We have already asked the government agencies running liquor stores up to November 16 to maintain stock according to demand," said the officer.
Naresh Goel, the president of Delhi Liquor Traders Association, said the private liquor vends in some areas like Saket have already shut down after selling their remaining stocks.
"Shortage is bound to occur as private vends used to be better stocked. Closure of all the private shops in the city in one go will create shortage as government shops cannot handle the demand since they are also in the process of winding up before November 17," Mr Goel said.
Amit Sharma, president of Delhi Liquor Sales Association that represents workers at the liquor stores in the city, claimed around 3,000 people will be out of jobs after private stores close down.
With the closure of private vends on September 30, there will no retail liquor sale in 26 of the 272 municipal wards. Additionally, there are no liquor vends in 80 wards.
The New Excise Policy of the Delhi government seeks to ensure equitable distribution of liquor vends across the city by dividing it into 32 zones.
Each zone covering 8-10 wards will have nearly 27 liquor vends that will provide customers walk-in experience and a choice of their preferred brands.