Liquor Traders Association national president Winston Hector described the first day of trading as a “sweet victory” for the association’s 50 000 members.
In the Eastern Cape, consumers told News24 they started joining the queues as early as 04:00 to beat the rush.
The frenzy came as the government allowed for the opening of economic activities including the sale of alcohol for the first time in 65 days.
When News24 arrived at an Ultra Liquors outlet in East London’s CBD around 09:00, close to 200 people were queue-ing.
Buffalo City Metro disaster management officials and the police had their hands full trying to make sure people stuck to the one metre social distance rule. I got here at 04:00 and what makes me angry is that the queue marshal wanted me to start from the back of the line again. Over my dead body.Tavern owner Noziphiwo Hlekani
Tavern owner Noziphiwo Hlekani said the now lifted hard lockdown had brought her business to its knees.
“I am glad we can come again to stock up so we can sell alcohol to feed our kids. It has been a very tough and long journey since the announcement of the hard lockdown by the president in March.”
There were moments when tempers frayed in the queue due to clashes between marshals and consumers.
Hlekani explained: “I got here at 04:00 and what makes me angry is that the queue marshal wanted me to start from the back of the line again. Over my dead body. I was given a ticket with number 104 when I got here. There are people who got here at 07:00, the marshal wanted to put me behind them, over my dead body.”
Hector said this victory was for township taverns, who could now get back to providing for their families and the families of their staff members.
“Government responded positively to our request; therefore, all taverns are allowed to trade strictly, off consumption (take away) under Level 3 regulations from Monday – Thursday 9am to 5pm, and prohibited on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and holidays.”
Hector said the LTA consisted of 50 000 taverns across the country and 3 000 of those are in the Eastern Cape.
“We want to thank government and the National Coronavirus Command Council for their decision to permit the sale and transport of alcohol at licensed platforms such as restaurants, taverns and shebeens – providing the alcohol is taken away. We especially appreciate the fact that they have allowed any business with a valid licence to sell alcohol.”
While the Eastern Cape Black Business Forum has welcomed the country entering the Level 3 lockdown, it bemoaned crippling travel restrictions.
Its secretary and Berlin November horse racing event founder, Luthando Bara said: “The BBF welcome Level 3. We are cautiously optimistic that business will pick up as more people are allowed free movement. At the moment, trading for our members is brisk and will only enjoy benefits when the regulations have been entirely lifted. We are still carefully investigating the cost of business that will be imposed by the regulations and most will use this week for that tally.”
“It is difficult for our members in tourism, restaurants, creative industries, property, construction to participate. We urge business owners to remain positive and not despair. Every crisis presents an opportunity.”
He said the BBF has over 1 500 members, mostly running construction, farming and fishing, real estate and business support services in urban, township and rural areas.