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Business as usual for city taverns, shebeens

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The regulation also put a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people at liquor outlets and restaurants.

FOR MOST tavern and shebeen owners in Galeshewe it was business as usual yesterday, with many reporting that they were unaware of the ban on the sale of alcohol from 6pm until 9am.

Some leniency, however, was granted by the Northern Cape MEC for Transport, Safety and Liaison, Nontobeko Vilakazi, who stated that her department would ensure that outlets were closed “by 10pm at the latest”.

The new regulation was stipulated in the Government Gazette released under the Disaster Management Act by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on Wednesday.

The regulation also put a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people at liquor outlets and restaurants.

According to the regulation, both on- and off-site liquor outlets are also only allowed to sell alcohol until 1pm on Sundays.

Tavern and shebeen owners in Kimberley said yesterday that they would lose income if the regulations relating to the 9am to 6pm opening hours were implemented.

They pointed out that patrons usually only started arriving after 6pm while their busiest times were in the late evening until 2am.

Vilakazi said during a press briefing yesterday that shebeens would be monitored to ensure that they adhered to the new specified times.

“We will make sure that they close by 10pm at the latest. We will also make sure that those in shebeens have hand sanitisers and are able to wash their hands regularly,” Vilakazi emphasised.

The owner of Neo’s Tavern in Kagisho, Neo Mokubung, said that while he felt that the regulations unfairly targeted taverns, he would be obliged to adhere to them if the new times were enforced.

He said he would keep his customers updated by putting information posters on the walls.

“It is difficult from a business point of view, but what can we do? We cannot refuse. We have to work with the government to keep ourselves and our communities safe,” Mokubung said.

“I will just have to learn to live with it – just like I had to when the law expected us to close at 2am. Alcohol sales stopped at 1.30am when customers usually started leaving the tavern.”

Mokubung pointed out that the liquor board should be at the forefront of providing accurate information to its members. “I will be ready to adhere if I have to but the information must be communicated to me properly by the proper authorities. As I understand it, we are not yet in a state of emergency.”

The owner of Booker T Bottle Store in John Daka, Lethabo Buffel, indicated that he was also not aware of the new regulations.

“It won’t affect me that much, however, as I only open from 8am to 8pm currently,” Buffel said.

The owner of Vera-Inn in Phomolong, Veronica Molehe, said she was shocked by the news, as her family relied on the profit made at the tavern to survive.

“I am shocked. This will affect our profits and it will be a heavy blow as we depend on this income. The only other source of income we have is my husband’s pension,” said Molehe.

She added that the restriction on opening hours on Sundays was particularly harsh. “Sundays after 1pm is usually our busiest times as we often host jazz sessions that run until late at night.”

Molehe stated that she was currently not able to provide patrons with items like sanitisers or masks as these were out of stock at retailers.

“I only managed to get some stock for the household but it is going to run out very fast because of the number of times I wash my hands.”

The owner of Oupa’s Tavern in Galeshewe, Oupa Louw, said customers were already opting to drink at home.

“We understand that they are scared to socialise in groups because of the coronavirus,” said Louw.

“It is difficult to say to what extent businesses will be affected. The earlier closing times will be a big problem for many. Saturdays and Sundays are usually the busiest times for local liquor outlets.”

The Northern Cape Provincial Police Commissioner, Lieutenant-General Peter Shivuri, warned that the police would enforce the new regulations.

“For me it is to draw the attention of Section 305.3 of the Constitution where the president stated that law be enforced for shebeen closures. This new regulation has been promulgated, and it is for the police to enforce the law. We appeal to outlets and shebeen owners to read the regulations and adhere to the closing times and the other regulations.”