The suspension of the import of alcohol earlier this March has presumptively received silent thanks and prayers from the housewives but for the ‘socially drinking’ and those who are thrill seekers of the intoxicating kind, it has not really been a pleasant ordeal.
After the Indian Rupee (INR) problem earlier this year the government suspended the import of alcohol following which the price of the available stocks inside the country increased in some bars and restaurants. But now it seems liquor shops around the country are on the verge of running out of stock.
A Restaurant/Bar owner in Thimphu said that they are out of stock and this would probably affect the sale of other liquors too as they say some customers are more inclined towards a particular brand and its crucial to maintain that consistency to satiate the customers’ needs.
The Druk Main Liquor shop in Thimphu which normally supplies liquor in large quantity to local bars and restaurant is almost on the brink of running out of stock on imported liquor. The manager said, “all we have now is the liquor brands produced in Bhutan.”
Shops like Rinchen Jungden general shop in Changangkha sells imported liquor from India which is much cheaper and in high demand by customers but they are soon to run out of stocks too.
The owner said it was disappointing but he said if these sacrifices can make a difference in the country’s economy then the people should understand.
The suspension of import on alcohol would have affected the bars which attract Bhutanese customers but the high end hotels need not worry as these institutions are normally accommodated by high end tourists who demand high quality services. The government has given them special licenses.
High end hotels like the Taj Tashi, Aman resorts and Uma resorts were affected earlier during the immediate suspension of import of foreign liquors but these hotels had collectively put an application to the government after having extensive discussions with the Hotel Association of Bhutan (HAB), revenue and customs, Tourism Council of Bhutan and other relevant agencies and.
This move according to the purchase manager of Taj Tashi, Eden Choden Dorji was taken as a variety of brands that was mandatory to be maintained at all times were falling short.
She said “We have to maintain at least 200 select brands”, while adding, “90% of our guests or customers are foreigners and they always ask for liquor brands which are produced outside the country”.
Although there are several brands of wine produced in Bhutan like the Takin and Raven besides others but A graded hotels or hotels like Taj Tashi and others do not acquire these local brands, as according to the Financial manager of Taj Tashi, they have to maintain a certain ‘level’ in which most of the local Bhutanese liquors do not qualify.
Some of the regulars in pubs across Thimphu are keptical as they say this move should have been taken a long time back.
Around 5.86% of Bhutanese consume these imported liquors from India on a regular basis or at least thrice a week. This figure some five years back would have been below 1% since to acquire foreign alcohol was not as easy as it is now.