The body representing taverns and shebeens, the Liquor Trader Formations, is calling for an urgent meeting with President Cyril Ramaphosa, arguing that the current ban on alcohol sales, which is happening for the third time since the lockdown began, seems to be "the surest way" to set in motion the death knell of taverns.
In a statement issued on Saturday, Lucky Ntimane, the convener of the Liquor Trader Formations, said the organisation wanted the president to allow offsite sales of alcohol sales with immediate effect.
The organisation, together with other liquor traders who represent shebeens, taverns and bottle stores, has also written a letter to the President. You can read it here.
It wants government to provide support for taverns and shebeen permit holders, to the value of R20 000 per outlet. Furthermore, shebeens and taverns want to be exempt from paying liquor licence fees for a period of not less than a year.
Ramaphosa announced another ban on liquor sales on 28 December to try and reduce alcohol related trauma cases in the country's hospitals so that they'd have more capacity to deal with admissions caused by the second wave of Covid-19 infections.
The president kept the current ban in place when he addressed the nation again on Monday, even as the country's largest beer maker, SA Breweries, threatened legal action.
The shebeen and tavern sector tried to persuade government to lift the liquor sales ban every time it was announced since the lockdown began. The Gauteng Liquor Forum, another body representing alcohol traders threatened to approach the Constitutional Court when the first ban was put in place, but later put those plans on ice when booze was allowed to be on sale again.
Now, the Liquor Trader Formations said while it supported government's efforts in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, it did not see how shebeens and taverns could recover from the current ban.
It said the industry was playing its part to address societal issues that are blamed on excessive alcohol consumption, including gender-based violence (GBV) and had started an initiative called Tavern Dialogues on GBV.
"We highlight this to remedy the narrative that seeks to positions liquor traders as being irresponsible and not alive to the realities facing the country. The opposite couldn't be truer," read the statement.
Ntimane said the livelihoods of the liquor traders, their families and the 250 000 workers dependent on the tavern sector was under threat.
"We are equally concerned that the alcohol ban is having a negative impact on the country and further dent its image as an investment destination.
"The withdrawal of R2.5 billion worth of investment into the country by South African Breweries parent company AB InBev and the announcement by Consol that it is putting on hold R1.5 billion worth of investment has a major implication on the future growth prospects of the alcohol industry," added Ntimane.