Sunday booze back

2014-02-28 00:00

THE relaxation of the province’s booze laws, which takes effect from today, will see liquor being sold on Sundays and a clampdown on taverns that operate near schools and creches.

This follows the passing of the Liquor Amendment Bill by the legislature late last year following years of debate.

The jury is still out whether the change to allow liquor stores to open on Sunday — prohibited by law until today — will result in a big increase in turnover and profits for liquor store owners.

The province’s new Liquor Act comes into effect despite attempts by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to push for a total ban on alcohol advertising and plans by government to consider increasing the legal age to consume alcohol from 18 to 21.

Sunday booze sales have proved controversial in other provinces, including Gauteng which has attempted to ban Sunday sales.

The ban appears to have been dropped due to resistance by the public.

Announcing the commencement of new regulations in Durban yesterday, Economic Development and Tourism MEC Mike Mabuyakhulu said the sale of alcohol on Sunday had been banned not for the general good of the community, but to further narrow sectarian and religious interests.

“All of us know we now have a secular state and a Constitution that recognises all religious formations.

“As such, government would be acting in the manner that undermines the spirit of the constitution if we were, without any shred of evidence, to ban the sale of alcohol on Sundays,” Mabuyakhulu told journalists at a media briefing in Durban.

He also said if truth was to be told, people bought liquor in bulk on Fridays and Saturday to consume on Sundays.

“The biggest issue that we want to focus on as a province, the KwaZulu-Natal Liquor Authority together and communities is to educate people to drink in a responsible manner whether it is Sunday, Friday or Wednesday,” Mabuyakhulu said.

“You can create a Sunday in a home if you don’t drink. That is your choice, not our choice as government. That choice, we leave it within your hands,” he said in an apparent response to critics of the Sunday sale of alcohol.

Mabuyakhulu said the previous legislation had failed to address the economic imperatives associated with the liquor industry and also failed to regulate and control the socio-impact of the law on communities.

“Liquor licensing was also not perceived to be an economic activity, but merely became a compliance issue,” he said.

He insisted that the new law addressed shortcomings in the old legislation by introducing proper regulations and control of liquor industry while balancing the social economic impact and effect on communities.

“As government we want to clarify our position — we are not opposed to liquor. Consumption of alcohol per se is not problematic.”

In terms of the new law, entry of new participants in the liquor industry, diversity of ownership and ethos of social responsibility is promoted.

The law also promotes direct participation of communities in liquor licensing processes.

“Communities will have an opportunity to comment on an application as it is compulsory to advertise the application in two locally circulating newspapers,” he said.

Prospective applicants will now be compelled to give notice to neighbours within a 100-metre radius of the establishment as opposed to advertising in a government gazette.

Mabuyakhulu also said the liquor licence would not be renewed yearly as long-term applicants complied with licence conditions.

“The licencee is required to make an application to the Liquor Authority six months prior to the expiry of the licence,’ he said.

No new licences will be issued to establishments that will operate within 500 metres of schools and churches.

However, existing establishment would have three years to relocate and may not operate when schools are opened.

Some liquor outlets said they would wait and see if Sunday sales made a huge impact on their trading.

Deon Barkhuizen, owner of Stella Liquor stores in Durban, said he expected Sunday trading would result in higher turnover.

“It is like any other form of advertising, if people see the liquor store is open, they will come in and buy,” he said.

Barkhuizen said his biggest concern was with the enforcement of illegal liquor trading operations, and he said the government should enforce the liquor legislation by closing down illegal outlets.

Barkhuizen was also concerned about the continuing prohibition of liquor stores to remain open after 5 pm on Saturday’s, as his experience was that this was a day when most people bought liquor, while those who did work on Saturday, normally only finished at 5 pm, leaving them no time to buy alcohol and forcing them to go to bars and clubs to get liquor.

Dino Ionides, owner of Jimmy’s Liquor in Durban, said he did not intend to trade on Sunday, as he needed a day of rest in a week.

Liberty Liquors manager Chris Hensey said he did not expect the company would immediately start trading on a Sunday, as they would need to ascertain how far away they were from schools and religious buildings. In addition, the company still had to take a formal decision on Sunday trading.

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