Restricting liquor sales over long weekends could be 'death warrant' for industry - SAB

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The beer industry is still in recovery from the devastation caused by 19 weeks of no trade.
The beer industry is still in recovery from the devastation caused by 19 weeks of no trade.

If government decides to implement restrictions or a ban on the sale of alcohol again, it should give the industry "a rational reason for signing this veritable death warrant", Zoleka Lisa, vice president of corporate affairs at SA Breweries said in a statement on Friday.

Lisa's comments come in the wake of reports that Health Minister Zweli Mkhize's advisors have recommended tighter restrictions on gatherings and liquor sales ahead of a series of upcoming public holidays, including the Easter weekend. Experts have warned that a third wave of the virus could be even deadlier than the first or the second. 

Scientists and government officials have also warned that a third wave of coronavirus infections could surface soon after the long Easter weekend, News24 reported. 

"Unjust and reactive regulations will do more harm than good. So, we ask government and civil society to accept us as a partner so we can find and implement solutions to the challenges that face our society without destroying hundreds of thousands of livelihoods in the process. There is a better way, if we work together," said Lisa.  

"If our trade is restricted in the coming long weekends, our government should know that any interruption in sales, particularly on Friday and Saturday, where 50% to 60% of sales are made, will put thousands of small businesses at a serious disadvantage. Many of these small businesses, who our president deemed 'crucial for the South African economy', and who only just started to recover from the hardship of the 2020 bans, will not survive another wave of restrictions." 

Lisa, however, said the beer industry is still in recovery from the devastation caused by 19 weeks of no trade due to previous Covid-19 restrictions on liquor sales. The industry lost R36.3 billion in sales revenue and over 200 000 jobs were shed, Lisa said. 

"The South African Breweries along with other industry stakeholders, has already proactively made recommendations to government through various structures on alternative measures to manage the upcoming Easter period and other holidays amidst concerns of a third wave," said Lisa. 

"Regardless, we acknowledge our responsibility and have set in motion a number of initiatives during this period to ensure that our consumers and customers uphold Covid-19 regulations, [but] we cannot hide from our economic reality. We understand our responsibility to reduce the harmful consumption, but this requires a broader engagement between our industry, alcohol policy, regulations and innovation to foster a culture of alcohol moderation." 

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