The hospitality industry has hailed the Supreme Court interim order which states that the Excise Licence fee of FY 2021-22 for members who have paid 50 per cent fees will be protected and won’t have to pay the additional 50 per cent demanded by the Maharashtra State Excise Department. ‘’We shall continue to exhaust our right to legal remedy before the SC to uphold the right of the associations to advocate the interests of members in the larger interest of the industry,” said the Hotel and Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI) which had approached the SC after the Bombay HC recently dismissed the petition and instead imposed a cost on the associations. The apex court has also granted a stay on the cost imposed on the associations.
“Back in May 2021, the Hon’ble Bombay HC in view of the pandemic and the State imposed lockdowns, had agreed to provide relief in the excise licence fee to the industry. It had allowed licence holders to pay 50 per cent of the fees pending the petition. However, we were surprised that when the matter was finally heard a couple of days ago, another Bench of the HC felt that the petition was worthless and instead imposed a cost on the Associations. So, we immediately approached the Hon’ble SC of which the hearing took place today and we are extremely pleased to inform you that the SC has issued a notice to the State to continue the previous interim order which was passed in favour of the industry,” says Sherry Bhatia, President, HRAWI.
When contacted the senior officer from the state Excise Department refused to comment.
Maharashtra has around 10,500 hotels and 210,000 restaurants and over the last 24 months around 3,000 hotels and 60,000 restaurants have permanently shut down. Around 50 lakh employees, roughly 40 per cent directly engaged in the industry in the State lost their jobs. During the lockdown period, Maharashtra’s hospitality industry has suffered a revenue loss of approximately Rs.5,000 Cr monthly.
“There continues to be prejudice against liquor business. However, liquor is only incidental to a hotel and restaurant business which is primarily about offering accommodation and serving food to guests,” said Bhatia.
According to HRAWI senior VP Pradeep Shetty, 50 per cent of the industry had already shut down and owners had no earnings for the last two years. Additionally, no financial institutions were and most still aren’t willing to lend to the industry. ‘’Owners of hotels, restaurants and bars are facing severe difficulties in raising capital. We feel, being in the legitimate business of serving alcohol along with food, we are also entitled to all rights including rights under Article 14 especially, when industry and licence holders are not treated fairly,’’ he said.