Dispelling rumours that the government may re-introduce the BevQ app for buying alcoholic beverages from state-run liquor outlets, Minister for Excise and Labour T P Ramakrishnan said such a move is not under consideration.
The Beverages Corporation, too, denied holding any talks or receiving any instruction on the re-introduction of the app.
“Kerala has a peculiar situation now. The election result has not yet been announced, and no policy decision could be made now,” the minister said.
BevQ, an Android-based virtual queue application and token generator service was provided by the Kerala State Beverages Corporation Ltd to ensure and maintain COVID protocol in the liquor outlets. Launched in May 2020, the app had beaten all other Indian food and drinks apps in terms of growth.
Many liquor outlets, meanwhile, witnessed panic buying following rumours that they would be closed. Bevco and Consumerfed outlets have reported increased footfalls with people stocking more liquor.
Meanwhile, Beverages Corporation closed four of its outlets after the staff there tested positive for COVID-19. Authorities expect to reopen the outlets in two days after disinfecting them.
Authorities are planning to keep the outlets, including air-conditioned premium counters, open by adhering to safety protocol. It has been decided to check the body temperature of consumers and to redraw lines to ensure social distancing. Hand sanitisers would be made available at all outlets.
Only five consumers would be allowed in air-conditioned premium outlets at a time, and those with high body temperature or common cold would not be allowed. Employees, too, have been issued strict protocol.
Though the BevQ app initially caused much trouble, it later ensured a safe and smooth sale of liquor in outlets and bars. Private bars benefited more from the app than Bevco and Consumerfed. A controversy was triggered after bars, which used to record an average sale of Rs 2 lakh a day, started selling liquor to the tune of Rs 10 lakh daily.
It has been estimated that app-based sales caused losses to the Beverages Corporation. There was an allegation that the app provided the users tokens to the bars than to government outlets. The complaint was addressed later, and the users were given an option to choose an outlet or bar of his or her choice. However, BevQ was withdrawn soon after the issue was addressed.
Initially, the tokens were issued over the app and SMS based on the pin code provided. A Bevco response to an application filed under the Right to Information Act revealed that privately-run bars and beer and wine parlours received 64.4 per cent of the tokens issued during the first 10 days—May 28 to June 9—after launching the app.
The government withdrew BevQ after the restrictions were lifted and bars started functioning normally.