New Delhi: The restaurant industry on Monday welcomed the Delhi government’s decision to lower the legal drinking age in the national capital from 25 years to 21 years, calling the move pragmatic and progressive.
Announcing the decision, deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia said the consumption age in Delhi would now be the same as in the majority of Indian states – 21 years. He said the decision was aimed at “stopping harassment of people and establishments”.
The National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) welcomed the decision as a “pragmatic” step that would benefit both “businesses and the exchequer”. NRAI president Anurag Katriar said the current legal drinking age prescribed in Delhi was an “outdated law” that finds its genesis in the Punjab Excise Act, 1914. The association had been requesting for amending such archaic laws, he said.
“India has changed a lot in these 107 years and we certainly have a new social order. Lowering the legal drinking age to 21 is both progressive as well as pragmatic. It will reduce illegal or closet consumption and will also expand the consumer base significantly, thus benefitting the businesses as well as the exchequer. While we await the formal release of the detailed policy document, we are very hopeful that they will be very progressive and will significantly change the way Delhi looks at the business of bars,” he said.
“I say this in light of our constant engagement and deliberations with the Delhi government on these amendments. I sincerely hope that other states in India follow suit soon and make necessary amendments to archaic provisions in their excise laws, which have lost their relevance with the passage of time,” Katriar said.
According to Zorawar Kalra, the founder of Massive Restaurants Pvt Ltd, the decision would bring Delhi at par with other cities and promote “safe consumption”. This is a very progressive move and will get Delhi on par with Bangalore, Goa, Mumbai and other key cities and states, he said. “This will also prevent young adults from binge drinking and will legitimise safe consumption. However, service and consumption must still be done very responsibly, and for this the entire industry is ready to come together,” he said.
According to a Delhi government statement, new rules and the “international concept of age gating” would be put in place to ensure that individuals under the age of 21 don’t have “access to the establishment that serves liquor without supervision”. “This means below 21-year-old children will not be allowed inside the restaurants where liquor is served if they are coming alone or in a group of underage children. The international concept of ‘Age Gating’ will be introduced. Delhi will be the first city in India to ensure this to make sure that there is no underage drinking in Delhi and the SOP [standard operating procedure] will be made along with the industry,” Sisodia said.
For many restauranteurs, the announcement has come as a gift, especially when people have just started to step out of their houses and started dining out. “It is a gift for the hospitality sector in these times when people are finally getting out for a proper dining experience. It was surely about time for the legal drinking age to drop down, and we are super elated. I express my gratitude to our deputy CM Manish Sisodia and AAP [Aam Aadmi Party] for making justified changes to the current policy. I am certain that the F&B [food and beverage] industry is already celebrating!” said Priyank Sukhija, MD & CEO, First Fiddle F&B Pvt Ltd. Sukhija runs restaurant chains such as Plum By Bent Chair, Lord of the Drinks and Tamasha in Delhi and Mumbai.
Joy Singh, co-partner at Delhi’s ‘Raasta’ agreed. “It’s a great proposal and progressive thinking. Bringing down the legal drinking age to 21 is a great move, and the most clichéd dialogue – If one can marry at 18 and is old enough to vote, then why not drink at his or her will. So yes, this is a very progressive move and is welcomed by the hospitality industry,” Singh said.