A man with the licence to thrill taverners eKasi

2017-11-16 06:00
Liquor License consultant, Thulani Phike, sees the economic benefits of alcohol trade. PHOTO: Mandla Mahashe

Liquor License consultant, Thulani Phike, sees the economic benefits of alcohol trade. PHOTO: Mandla Mahashe

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According to a local entrepreneur who has made it his business to make liquor traders legally compliant, the alcohol business is an economic tool.

Thulani Pike, 40, opened his company Liquor Licensing Agency in June 2016 after spending three years as a tribune member of the Western Cape Liquor Authority.

There, he says, he not only saw a business opportunity, but how township liquor traders struggled with legislation and how the system was negatively biased against them.

He resigned and started consulting the traders, and so far has about nine successful applications, despite the uphill struggle, he claims.

“The government has taken a decision to clamp down on alcohol consumption and township traders are the first target. They make it very difficult for people to obtain licenses, those that have licenses are heavily fined, upwards to as much as R100 000 for minor discrepancies,” he said.

He said that it takes a long time for traders to receive a license with drastic financial ramifications for them.

“A liquor license application can take as long as a year and can cost as much as R15 000, during which period a person is not allowed to trade.

I have a client who has a pending application and has been renting a building for months but can’t sell because they don’t have a license,” he said.

Phike says that the authorities fail to see the economic opportunities of trading in alcohol and they should relax the legislation.

“What we advise is that applicants must be allowed to sell alcohol via a permit with strict regulations.

If a trader is irresponsible then the permit can be revoked and his license not approved, then we know that a trader is declined on their own merit.

Presently, the government uses by-laws such as zoning to stop our people from economic freedom,” says Phike.

He also says that the government is missing the ball by limiting licensed establishment as they create a lot of unlicensed and unruly establishments.

“When you have a liquor license there are regulations you have to abide by; you close on time you don’t sell illegally and losing your license is a real threat.

Unlicensed places are uncontrollable as they sell at any hour and are fuelling the bad social ills that are alcohol related,” he said.

He said that job creation was another positive, as it created employment.

“Recently, I helped local restaurant Rands to obtain a license.

The place employees about 60 people with families.

In fact when you apply for a license it stipulates that you should have security in your facility, therefore employment is created,” he boasted.

He also said that the anti-alcohol abuse stance was negatively biased against black and so-called coloured traders and major corporates had bigger budgets to navigate through the regulations when they open franchise bottle stores in the townships.

“The malls are often in areas zoned for business and therefore the franchise bottle stores which are white owned can sell alcohol on Sunday but bottle stores which are owned by black locals cannot because they are in residential areas.

When a black person wants to own a bottle store in a business area, the City makes it extremely difficult for them to obtain a license, you cant get a liquor license if you don’t have a business license.

It’s a no win situation, because a business license requires structural changes to be done on a building which the applicant doesn’t own.

Even the owner of the building often does not have money to renovate because a simple ventilation system can cost as much as R30 000,” he said.

He said that the black traders were under siege and secretary for the Western Cape Liquor Traders Organisation Lefa Mapila shares the same sentiment.

“We are being choked out of business with the harsh penalties for things that are beyond our control.

The fines are outrageous and make it difficult for the business to be profitable.

When you don’t have a license, it takes a long time for you to get the license and you are forced to sell illegal,” he said.

Mapilo also supported the call for a temporary license for liquor license applications and would work with the law enforcement, community organisations to make this a reality. Nwabisa Mpalala, assistant director of communication, education and stakeholder relations at the WCLA, denied that race was a factor in the issuing of fines in the province.

“Inspectors attend to complaints all across the Western Cape.

The WCLA does not consider race in respect of the compliance cases which are referred to the Liquor Licensing Tribunal (LLT).

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