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All hope has vanished – tavern owner

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Booze ban a blow to tavern owners.

TAVERN owners in Kimberley are among those who have been hit hard by the extended lockdown after the sale of alcohol was banned for a second time.

A local tavern owner said on Thursday that any hope she had that her dire financial situation would improve after the hard lockdown, was shattered by the reinstatement of the booze ban announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa two weeks ago.

According to the owner, there was no indication at the time that alcohol sales would be banned and the announcement had come as an unexpected blow.

Local tavern owners had previously indicated that business was slow after the first ban was lifted because of the restrictions, such as only being allowed to sell alcohol midweek and no drinking allowed on the premises, placed on their businesses.

“Many people opted instead to buy their liquor from bottle stores as it was cheaper. Those who bought at taverns were mostly our regular customers, who would sometimes be given credit,” a local tavern owner explained yesterday.

“We were already struggling but thought we might be able to pull through and make ends meet, but then the second ban was announced.”

He said that those tavern owners who have, “out of desperation”, tried to sell alcohol through the back door have been raided by the police and had their stock confiscated.

Despite the reinstated ban, drinking has continued among some members of the community, who have turned to home-made concoctions that are sold illegally. Underground taverns have also sprung up.

“People aren’t worried about what they drink anymore,” one city resident said. “You just have to know where to go and be prepared to pay.”

According to locals, a 2l bottle of home-made concoction sells for R20 while home-made beer with yeast goes for R50.

“For a 750ml bottle of beer you can expect to pay around R35, while a litre of beer will set you back around R50,” said one resident. “I usually drink Hooch cider, which I could get from the bottle store for R80 and at a tavern for R130 (for a six-pack). But since the ban, I don’t even bother to buy ciders because I am expected to pay R200 for a six-pack. I would rather spend R500 on a bottle of whiskey, which will last me longer.

“Getting your hands on alcohol, however, is becoming more difficult, as ‘traders’ were caught unprepared and didn’t have time to stock up.”

A local tavern owner pointed out that illegal shebeens were more accessible to the community as the taverns were closely watched by the police.

The owner pointed out that certain taverns worked hand in hand with shebeens and took on the role of supplier.

“The situation is very concerning. My bills are piling up and I don’t have another income,” said the tavern owner. “There was a glimmer of hope when we could sell midweek but now all hope has vanished.”

Another Galeshewe tavern owner said he regretted investing in a tavern, which he started to rent in 2018.

“This was the worst business investment I have ever made. I took the tavern over but have never really reaped any benefits from it.

“The bills are piling up and I had to beef up security a number of times following a spate of burglaries.”

He added that he had “re-branded” the tavern in the hope of attracting more business. “I started hosting events for the youth and jazz afternoons on Sundays.

“Just when people were starting to know about me, the lockdown came, left, and returned.

“I have invested everything I own into this business because the tavern was well-equipped and furnished. All I had to do was to market and run it accordingly to earn a living. Now I am doomed.”

He stated that his tavern was among the many that were burgled over the lockdown period, despite the numerous security upgrades that he did on the premises.

“That was because I refused to sell alcohol through the back door like many others. I might as well have done so, however, because my stock has now expired.”

Another tavern owner, whose business was raided by the police in May and alcohol and cash were seized, said he did not feel any remorse for trading illegally.

“I am not proud but do not feel any remorse because the president and his ministers are getting paid every month and do not know how much we suffer on the ground.

“I am embarrassed though because my family’s image has now been tainted.

“Those sitting in Parliament are not affected because the 30% salary cut they are taking is almost nothing to them. They make up for that loss by awarding their partners and acquaintances tenders, while the ordinary people have lost their jobs and businesses have suffered.”

A local shebeen owner indicated that he had “grabbed the opportunity” presented to her by the lockdown, “as many other businesses had done”.

“I have a large freezer and with the pay-out I received after I lost my job due to the lockdown, I stocked up on beer. This was one of the best decisions I made.

“The customers knew that it was a take it or leave it. Everything was sold out within two weeks but I made triple my original investment.

“Now I am in the process of registering a business in the alcohol industry,” she said.