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Another alcohol ban will be the end of tavern sector – liquor body

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“If this unfortunate talk is followed by yet another alcohol ban by the president, it will be a confirmation on his part to say he doesn’t care about the livelihoods of taverns and shebeen permit holders”

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ANOTHER ban on alcohol would be the end of the tavern sector as we know it, says Liquor Traders Formation convener Lucky Ntimane.

He joined other industry organisations which argued that the alcohol industry had yet to recover from the almost 19 weeks of non-trading since the Covid-19 hard lockdown began.

Under current Level 1 lockdown restrictions, alcohol sales take place at normal pre-Covid-19 trading hours, but media reports said on Sunday that the National Coronavirus Command Council last week discussed banning alcohol sales over Easter and increasing the size of gatherings, among a raft of other suggestions to prevent a third wave of viral infections.

The industry claims to have already lost about R36.3 billion in revenue due to previous bans, and was dealt a further blow last month when Finance Minister Tito Mboweni slapped an eight percent increase on alcohol product tax.

Wine producer representative organisation Vinpro said that earlier this month struggling farmers were barely over the relief from the partial lifting of the third alcohol ban on February 1 before being told they had to pay a 16% increase in minimum wages, a 15 percent increase in electricity costs and an 8 percent increase in excise duty.

South Africa Liquor Brandowners Association chairperson Sibani Mngadi said the only outcomes that they could expect from the decisions to increase gatherings and ban alcohol sales was the hastening of the onset of the third wave of Covid-19 pandemic “while further collapsing the struggling economy”.

“If this unfortunate talk is followed by yet another alcohol ban by the president, it will be a confirmation on his part to say he doesn’t care about the livelihoods of taverns and shebeen permit holders,” said Ntimane.

The alcohol industry supports more than one million jobs. The industry also generates R6 billion annually in export earnings while supporting over 34,500 township businesses.

Ntimane said that since the country went on lockdown from March 26, 2020, the tavern sector understood it had a role to play in supporting the government’s efforts to fight the pandemic and the request for a halt on the sale of liquor for 21 days was welcomed by all liquor traders as some form of patriotic duty.

“Fast-forward to 2021, the alcohol industry finds itself with a possibility of a fourth ban … the lack of consultation by the government has been the hallmark of the non-existent relationship that defines the leadership approach taken by powers that be,” he said.

Vinpro said it was proceeding with a court case to be heard in the Cape High Court at the end of April to argue that the decision-making regarding a potential liquor ban should take place at provincial level in future, as opposed to the blanket bans that were imposed by the national government.

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