Since the lockdown issued because of lockdown has caused huge financial losses, rest-o-bar and permit room owners in Pune are reluctant to pay the annual excise licence renewal fee imposed on them without any consideration. It's been more than three months since the start of the fiscal year but, as many as 75 per cent of bar owners have not paid the annual fee partially to the government.
In March, owing to business disruptions caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the State Excise Department had permitted licence holders to pay the annual fee in a set of three instalments - 25 per cent by June 30, 25 per cent by September 30 and the remaining 50 per cent before December 31.
After the extensions of the lockdown, the department also extended the deadline by allowing the licence holders to pay the fee in two equal instalments - first by end of September 30 and second by December 31.
An annual licence renewal fee of Rs 8 lakh is paid by every bar owner (holding FL-III license) at the start of the financial year to the government. There are as many as 2,500 FL-III licence holders in the city of Pune.
According to the bar owners, these concessions given to them in payment timings aren't enough to tide over the losses they have suffered due to lack of business. They are demanding a reasonable waiver of fee for the whole duration of the nationwide lockdown that is still going on.
"Our demand is that the State Excise Department should charge the fee on the pro-rata basis for the remainder of the year from the day of the opening of bars and permit rooms," said Ganesh Shetty, president of Pune Restauranteurs' and Hoteliers' Association (PRAHA) while speaking to The Indian Express.
Although the state government has eased some restrictions on numerous other businesses by permitting them to operate, dine-in restaurants and bars are still awaiting approval to open up their doors in full swing. Pune, which is one of the worst affected cities by Covid-19, is relatively stricter in imposing the lockdown in the city and as it seems like, the restrictions are likely to continue for much longer than in other districts.
Shetty also said that PRAHA has written to the State Excise Commissioner, Excise Minister, Deputy Chief Minister as well as Chief Minister seeking relief in this matter. "There has been no business for the past four months and it is impossible for bar owners to pay the excise fee, which is a big component of the monthly expenditure. It is only fair for us to demand that the fee be charged on a pro-rata basis," added Shetty.
Superintendent of State Excise Santosh Zagade claimed that since April 1, only 25 per cent licence holders have renewed the licence by paying the fee - or a portion of it - so far. "The decision on demands raised by the licence holders will be taken on a higher level in Mumbai. We are trying to collect the required renewal fee as per the directives issued last month," said Zagade to The Indian Express.