Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala State Beverages Corporation (BEVCO) has introduced an online booking system - BevSpirit - in an effort to reduce crowding outside its liquor outlets.
The pilot project, implemented in Thiruvananthapuram (Pazhavangadi Road) and Kozhikode (Pavamani Road) in the first phase, will be active from Tuesday.
Users need to enter details that include name, phone number, email address, and date of birth at the first instance to create an account.
One can then log in to the website with the phone number and the password set during the registration phase.
Users will be prompted to select their district from a drop menu.
According to BEVCO, once the district is selected, the website will list the liquor outlets in the region and what alcohol is in stock at each outlet.
After selecting the liquor and adding it to the cart, users will be redirected to a payment gateway.
All the usual payment services are available. Users can opt to pay via Google Pay too.
Once payment is done, a message containing the transaction reference number, details of the retail outlet and a time slot to pick up the liquor will be sent to the registered mobile number.
Customers need only show the reference number to pick up the bottles.
Early assessments of the project indicated that the introduction of this online payment service will drastically reduce congestion outside liquor outlets.
If successful, the project will be implemented in other cities as well, BEVCO informed.
It is the latest among a slew of measures the State-run agency has introduced to reduce crowding in front of its liquor outlets.
The measures come in wake of the Kerala High Court voicing its concern over the non-implementation of COVID-19 guidelines at liquor stores.
A large number of people are often seen waiting in long queues for hours on end to buy alcohol. They are not maintaining social distance, the Court had observed while rapping the State-run agency.
Earlier, BEVCO had allowed bars and liquor outlets to remain open until 8 pm and even on Saturdays.
The number of counters at the liquor outlets too had been improved as per the direction of the Excise Commissionerate in the run-up to Onam.
Onam is a time when BEVCO makes the most sales.
In 2019, tipplers in Kerala guzzled liquor worth a record Rs 487 crore sold entirely through state-run outlets.
According to figures posted by BEVCO, the sale of liquor through its outlets netted Rs 487 crore during the Onam week, an increase of Rs 30 crore compared to 2018.
In 2019-20 alone, Kerala posted record liquor sales of Rs 14,700 crore.
While the pandemic dented these figures in 2020-21, Kerala still posted sales of Rs 10,340 crore despite the lockdown months when bars and BEVCO outlets were shut.
In the last five years, the sale of liquor was to the tune of Rs 65,000 crore. This is almost equal to Kerala's annual revenue.
Despite around 200 per cent tax on liquor, Kerala tops the country in its consumption of alcohol.
Only the State-run agency BEVCO is authorised for wholesale and retail sales of alcohol, including beer and wine.