A beta version of BevQ, an app launched by the Kerala government to manage alcohol sales in the state, had over one lakh downloads and numerous complaints on Thursday as the state began sale of liquor for the first time since the lockdown was imposed.
The app went live on the Google Play store on Wednesday evening, and had over one lakh downloads by 9 am on Thursday morning. Of 17,377 user reviews it had received by 4 pm, a majority were one-star reviews with the app averaging a rating of 2.4.
The Kerala government had on Wednesday confirmed it would allow liquor outlets to open across the state the next day, using the new BevQ app to manage customers and control queues outside shops.
Kerala has the highest per capita consumption of liquor in the country and people have been waiting for the app to go online to purchase alcohol.
“The state-run outlets in Kerala are crowded under normal circumstances and in todays scenario, it cannot be allowed,” Kerala’s excise minister TP said.
Sales began at 9 am on Thursday, but unhappy customers have already rated the app low and are complaining in user reviews about the problems with using it.
People wanting to buy alcohol in the state have to use the app, which sends them an e-token with date, time and place to pick up their order. Customers at will be charged 50 paise to meet SMS charge to the service provider, the rent for the Cloud service and regular maintenance expenses, the government has said.
The state-run liquor outlets and other bar and beer and wine shops had been closed since March 24, when the Centre declared nationwide lockdown to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.
From Thursday, 301 state-run outlets in the state, 576 out of the total 613 bar hotels in Kerala can sell alcohol under the terms and conditions put forward by the state government.
“Bars and hotels will have special counters to sell liquor at Kerala State Beverages (Manufacturing & Marketing) Corporation Ltd (BEVCO) rate,” Minister Ramakrishnan said on Wednesday.
The minister said the government did not have any plans to start home delivery of liquor.
The state government had on May 13 increased the price of liquor by 10-35% to shore up its revenue as it is facing a severe financial crisis due to the COVID-19 induced lockdown. The cabinet recommended a 10% tax hike for beer and wine and 35 per cent for all other categories of liquor.
At present, the sales tax on IMFL is 202% for brands priced up to Rs 400 and 212% for brands above that. With the new rates, this will increase to 237% and 247% respectively.
(With PTI inputs)