Liquor makers want bars to become drink-collection points when alcohol ban lifts next week

South Africa’s alcoholic-beverage makers are pushing the government to allow smaller bars to convert into drink-collection points when a nationwide ban on sales is lifted next week.

Allowing taverns in poorer communities to sell alcohol for home drinking will prevent local residents traveling long distances and help reduce illicit sales, Richard Rushton, chief executive officer of wine and spirits maker Distell, said in an interview on Monday.

The state should also extend opening hours beyond initial proposals for a Monday-to-Thursday window to reduce crowding, he said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa said Sunday that alcohol sales would be allowed when a lockdown to contain the coronavirus pandemic is eased from June 1. Drinks will still only be allowed to be consumed at home and the final regulations will be decided following consultation with the industry, he said.

South Africa banned the sale of beer, wine and spirits in late March, in part to ease the burden on hospitals and reduce the temptation for large gatherings. The industry is in "dire straits" after being inactive for two months, Rushton said, although wine exports have been allowed in May. The glass industry, which relies heavily on customers in the alcohol industry, has also suffered.

"We really are hoping that in the hours ahead the inclusion of the smaller licensed outlets are incorporated in the final regulations," Rushton said.

The industry has committed to help with the distribution of masks, sanitizer and health-information messages as it opens up, the CEO added.

Distell's drinks include a variety of wines, as well as Klipdrift brandy and Hunter’s Dry cider.

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