Liquor traders call for off-site alcohol sales to protect livelihoods

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The Liquor Traders Formation has called for off-premises liquor sales
The Liquor Traders Formation has called for off-premises liquor sales
  • South Africa has had a series of bans on the sale of alcohol, that have been imposed and lifted since the beginning of the lockdown in March last year
  • Lucky Ntimane, convenor of the Liquor Traders Formation said more than 165 000 people have lost their jobs as a result of the first two bans.
  • The latest ban could result in a majority of the 34 500 tavern and shebeens represented by the Liquor Traders Formation, shutting down. 

South Africa’s tavern and shebeen owners have urged the government to reinstate off-site sales of liquor from January 16, saying that the livelihoods of 100 000 people are at stake.

The country has had a series of bans on the sale of alcohol, that have been imposed and lifted since the beginning of the lockdown in March last year, with latest ban being imposed in December. The government had instituted bans and restrictions on the sale of alcohol to ensure that hospital beds are available for Covid-19 patients and are not filled with liquor related trauma cases stemming from car accidents and violence.

The country has been experiencing a second wave of the pandemic, reporting 12 601 new cases on Monday bringing the number of infections up to more than one million since the pandemic began.

On Tuesday Lucky Ntimane, convenor of the Liquor Traders Formation said more than 165 000 people have lost their jobs as a result of the first two bans. The formation represents South Africa’s tavern owners and the sector employs 250 000 people. 

"Out of the 284 days that the country has been on some measure of lockdown, liquor traders have not been able to trade in liquor for [more than]100 days, with no government support whatsoever to cushion against this blow," Ntimane said in a statement. 

He added that the ban could result in a majority of the 34 500 tavern and shebeens the group represents, shutting down. The taverns and shebeens are part of the country’s alcohol value chain that employs one million people across the country. To ensure that jobs are protected, the formation has called for off-site sales of alcohol with limited days and hours, from January 16 and a moratorium on licence renewals and fee increases for a year as well as a financial package of R20 000 for liquor traders to cover their losses.

Ntimane said President Cyril Ramaphosa had promised to review the ban on the January 15 and the industry expects to open on January 16. The convenor also urged liquor enforcement agencies to focus on illicit and illegal trading of alcohol.

"The current lockdown environment we find ourselves in encourages networks of alcohol smugglers to fill in the vacuum created of unmet consumer demand for alcoholic products," Ntimane said.

Ramaphosa's acting spokesperson Tyrone Seale, had not responded to requests for comment at the time of publication.

* Update: on Wednesday the Beer Association of South Africa (BASA) issued an urgent call to President Cyril Ramaphosa to lift the blanket ban on alcohol as from 16 January. BASA says this step is needed to ensure the survival of small business owners of craft breweries, who now find themselves on the brink of closure. 



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