Water and condoms for drinkers

2013-12-30 00:00

ALCOHOL is set to become a virtual controlled substance this year, with all Sunday bottle sales banned, and restaurants to provide free drinking water and condoms. They are also to refuse sales to people who appear pregnant or drunk.

Yesterday, restaurant representative bodies slammed a national liquor control draft bill for making sellers responsible for consumer behaviour, and for being “confused and rushed through”.

The bill also proposes that consumers provide full identification and reasons whenever buying liquor in excess of 25 litres, that sharp objects be banned in restaurants and pubs, and that it becomes illegal for any adult to give alcohol to a child under 18.

Meanwhile, KwaZulu-Natal consumers and bottle store owners were left in confusion yesterday, since the provincial liquor law — due to come into effect within weeks — breaks with other provinces to allow sales on Sundays. The national bill says bottle stores should be closed on Sundays and public holidays.

The new proposals follow revelations from the Medical Research Council that alcohol abuse in South Africa cost the country R38 billion in direct losses and tens of billions more in indirect costs.

Wendy Alberts, CEO of the restaurant association of South Africa, said an extension to the time for objections to the new bill, currently expiring on January 4, had been requested.

“Most of our members and even their lawyers have been away on vacation,” she said. “The members who have responded say their role is to provide entertainment not sex education.”

She said the proposals generally “placed the onus for the responsible consumption of alcohol on people dispensing alcohol”.

Alberts said the proposals, made by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), lacked clarity for restaurant owners. “Does it mean you have to dispense condoms like serviettes or provide dispensers in bathrooms? How do we know if someone is intoxicated? Does access to drinking water mean providing taps inside restaurants, or free bottled water, or just [carafes] of water on the table?”

Meanwhile, The Witness yesterday found consumers and pub owners in Pietermaritzburg and Durban were similarly in the dark.

Post-Christmas shopper Cherize Haffajee said, “It is ridiculous that we have to give our personal information to stores [to buy 25 litres or more of alcohol]. Why would they need that information?”.

Gregory Adley, franchisee for the Keg and Hedgehog pub in Pietermaritzburg, said, “I have never heard of the bill, but we are very compliant with the law. We are already giving free condoms to our staff and if we have to put a dispenser for our customers, then we will comply with the law.”

Jaryd Anthony, a shopper at Liberty Midlands Mall, praised the new proposals, “I think they are amazing. It can help people be more decent. People tend to have sex when they are drunk and condoms would really be good for that. Water is always good. And people should have a reason for buying lots of alcohol.”

Ayanda Nzimande agreed that the “water and condom thing is really good, as people get stupid when they are drunk”.

Caro Smit, head of South Africans Against Drunk Driving, praised the requirement for drinking water at bars and suggested that all sellers of alcohol also be required to sell food.

Smit’s son Chas Smit, a 23-year-old rock guitarist, was killed when he was hit by a car in Pietermaritzburg in 2005. Yesterday, Smit said that, after eight years of holding onto Chas’s possessions, she had donated his electric guitars to charity.

“It was hard to do, but it is what he would have wanted,” she said.

Michael Mabasa, spokesperson for the Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use, said the body had asked DTI to postpone the comment date to January 31 and said the department had “agreed in principle”.

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