I went out yesterday morning to buy some beer. Before the state government took over the liquor business, one could enter a respectable place and choose from a fairly wide selection of Indian liquor (no wine, though, even though there is quite decent Indian wine, and even though liquor stores are called Wine Shops).

Now, though, the liquor stores are filthy, with only the cheapest brands on sale, and are apparently intended to convey the message that if you keep alcohol in your home you are destined for one of the lower circles of hell. Drink in hotels or clubs (independent restaurants aren’t allowed to sell alcohol): fine. Drink at home: hell.

I went to a Wine Shop on the corner of Mandaveli High Road and C.P. Ramaswamy Road, because I was headed to Cinema Paradiso. I walked inside the gate. A group of what the Indian press used to call boozards clustered around the doorless opening to the Wine Shop. To the left was a makeshift stall featuring some kind of bright orange-red fried snacks. I walked through the assemblage to the counter, told the man inside that I wanted Kingfisher beer, which fortunately he had, and waited while he hauled a case from the back of the small room.

As I stood there, I felt a tapping on my shoulder. I turned, and a horrible-looking, toothless fellow grinned at me and said, “Hello, Madam.” I said quietly in Tamil, “Don’t touch me.” He immediately stepped back, and one of his comrades said, “Sorry, Madam.” I paid for my beer and carried it out to my car. It was nothing at all, really, it ended almost as it began; yet it upset me.

I would be grateful if someone could tell me a) where to find a decent Wine Shop in Chennai with a good selection; and b) why the Government took over this business in the first place. They were already auctioning off licenses to run the Wine Shops for large sums, and there is already a tax on every bottle sold. Why did they need to take over alcohol retailing?

The beer was good. But that’s another story.

17 Comments so far

  1. madhu (unregistered) on June 28th, 2006 @ 12:56 pm

    hmm i wouldnt expect to go find a nice/decent shop to go buy beer… unless maybe food world starts selling it….

    and beer in the morning.. i would better of ask someone else to buy it instead..

    as a matter of fact there are some good wine shops, places where they sell pinot and sauvignon blanc not the golconda variety in chennai.. i have seen one in thiruvanmiyur/besant nagar beach area… i know a friend who knows the address.. i will have to ask..

    and reason why govt took it back.. they can make a great deal of money out of it i guess.

  2. Nancy (unregistered) on June 28th, 2006 @ 1:37 pm

    PLEASE tell me where to buy wine in Chennai!!

    And BTW, the beer was not to be consumed in the morning, it’s just when I was able to go out. Wouldn’t it be worse, trying to buy it at night? I would have thought it would be even busier then?

  3. vatsan (unregistered) on June 28th, 2006 @ 2:57 pm

    decent alcohol is found in parsn complex, basement,

    and govt took over the business to improve JJs personal wealth, but as an indirect result the alcohol mafia was wiped out (whch was quite powerful in TN)

  4. Nancy (unregistered) on June 28th, 2006 @ 3:24 pm

    Thank you, Vatsan! I’ll check out the Parsn complex shop. And yes, that’s interesting about the alcohol mafia… I guess I can put up with being tapped on the shoulder once in awhile, in that case :)

  5. R.S.MONEY (unregistered) on June 28th, 2006 @ 4:37 pm


  6. david (unregistered) on June 28th, 2006 @ 5:17 pm

    there really is no decent place to buy beer or wine that i know of. so its good to hear about the place at parsn complex volunteered by vatsan. have been getting friends to bring wine from bangalore and bombay when they come down. or get it when i travel. its really such a shame that one cant get any of the good brands here.and yes, it was changed to enrich people in power. but has meant absolute misery for the masses, particularly the women folk who are worst hit with drunken husbands to contend with and no money for the family.

  7. Rajesh (unregistered) on June 28th, 2006 @ 5:41 pm

    There is one at Spencer Plaza at well — looks pretty decent and at least had a decent selection of scotch at first glance. I have not bought from that place though.

    Agree whole-heartedly with you guys on the general sentiment of the blog. With the new government taking over, maybe this will change?

  8. Nancy (unregistered) on June 28th, 2006 @ 8:09 pm

    David, I don’t think anything can prevent drunken husbands, except for economic improvement for the masses — certainly, the wildly swinging policies of successive governments have not been able to do so. I personally feel that things were better, at least for the innocent bystanders – e.g., women queuing at the milk booth next to the bar – when drinking was not allowed on the wine shop premises.

    Actually, the DMK gov’t might just change the situation – after all, it would mean a fresh influx of money if they auctioned off the liquor licenses once again.

  9. vatsan (unregistered) on June 28th, 2006 @ 9:34 pm

    who told u licenses r auctioned off? they are given to party loyalists and with a coalition govt it means more distribution, so MK mite not do it to prevent infighting and stay with the current system.

    this system is a way better system of enriching ones pocket compared to licenses.

  10. G V Balasubramanian (unregistered) on June 29th, 2006 @ 12:04 am

    Vatsan, one mafia is wiped out and another mafia is created.

  11. tilo (unregistered) on June 29th, 2006 @ 6:58 am


    why are speaking to Nancy like that: “who told u etc”.

  12. tilo (unregistered) on June 29th, 2006 @ 10:17 pm

    Nancy – I am sorry about the unpleasantness of it all.

  13. Nancy (unregistered) on June 29th, 2006 @ 10:56 pm


  14. Anand (unregistered) on June 29th, 2006 @ 11:02 pm

    Tilo: ?

  15. Peter (unregistered) on July 3rd, 2006 @ 9:11 pm

    It’s funny that I spent a week without Kingfisher beer at a hotel in Chennai simply because they didn’t advertise the fact that it was available (though hotels in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Delhi did announce that beer was available). I simply thought Chennai was a “dry” city.

    On the other hand, I asked my driver in Bangalore to take me to a wine shop, and we travelled for over half an hour and nearly across the entire city in order for me to find the ONE and ONLY bottle of Beefeater’s Gin to be had…
    Damn! Those Gimlet’s were good!

  16. arkaym (unregistered) on July 4th, 2006 @ 6:50 pm

    Well you can buy your beer in some places without alighting from your car. The boys in the shop serve you in the car itself for a tip. One such place is surprisingly on CP Ramasyami Road itself :) As you drive down CP Ramaswamy road towards Adayar you will see hotel sangeeta on your left. A little after the hotel you will notice a small wine shop on the left. Roll your windows down and wait and someone should attend to you. Or honk.

  17. Nancy (unregistered) on July 4th, 2006 @ 7:07 pm

    Thank you, Arkaym – that’s a good tip!

Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.