Officials had painstakingly drawn chalk circles for booze customers to stand in, but the social distancing efforts were thwarted as people gathered from early morning.
“We have been in solitude for over a month,” Asit Banerjee, 55, told AFP as he queued in Kolkata.
“Alcohol will energize us to maintain social distancing during the pandemic,” he said.
Police liberally swung “lathi” batons — long hardened bamboo canes — in Delhi and other cities to control the crowds.
In places like Ghaziabad, in Uttar Pradesh state, police closed down the shops soon after they opened as long queues of men in face masks snaked around the block.
“One of the shops had opened in the morning but clashes broke out as a lot of crowd had gathered,” a police officer in Ghaziabad told AFP.
But hundreds continue to loiter in neighboring streets and bylanes in the hope the liquor stores would be reopened.
“It’s not like I have anything to do at home,” Deepak Kumar, 30, told AFP as he waited patiently across the street from one outlet in the national capital New Delhi.
One lucky customer, a 25-year-old man named Sagar, said he went to a liquor store in Delhi at 7:30 am and was delighted to discover it had opened early.