Liquor traders have welcomed the decision to lift the third ban on alcohol sales by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his televised address to the nation on Monday evening following pleas to government for urgent intervention in order to save the struggling industry.
Ramaphosa announced that the sale of alcohol by licensed premises for off-site consumption will be permitted from Mondays to Thursdays from 10am to 6pm. Alcohol sales by licensed premises for on-site consumption such as restaurants and taverns will also be permitted throughout the week from 10am to 10pm.
“Duty-free shops, registered wineries, wine farms, micro-breweries and micro-distilleries will be able to sell alcohol for off-site consumption during their normal licensed operating hours,” Ramaphosa said.
The President said the changes were made possible by the significant reduction in Covid-19 hospital admissions across all provinces, which had reduced the pressure on beds and hospital personnel.
Reacting to the news, the Beer Association of South Africa (BASA) said the lifting of the ban “offered small businesses a glimmer of hope, although it may be too little too late for some,” who have been struggling.
“The situation faced by small business owners and craft brewers remains dire – the last two alcohol bans had a devastating impact on the beer industry, with an estimated 7,400 jobs lost, R14.2 billion in lost sales revenue and more than a R7.8 billion loss in taxes and excise duties,“ BASA said in a statement on Monday.
“Survey results from the Craft Brewer’s Association of South Africa indicate that 87.5% of craft brewers are still at risk of permanent closure – and with zero targeted relief from government, this will likely become a reality.”
The association said it had written to the Presidency and to the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) to reiterate their call for urgent government intervention to save jobs and small businesses within our sector.
“To date, the industry has not been able to secure a meeting with Minister [Ebrahim] Patel or the Presidency to deal with this dire matter. BASA would like to reiterate that there is a desperate need for payment deferrals, financial relief, and liquor licence automatic renewals for 2021, if we are to have any hope of saving the businesses that remain standing.”
Lifeline for restaurants
At the same time, the Restaurant Association of South Africa (Rasa) said the lifting of the ban on alcohol sales will be an opportunity to save the industry.
“Let’s please stand in unity and support each other and do everything to keep our staff and patrons safe. Let’s promise each other to be responsible in our businesses and do everything possible to keep the lifting of the liquor ban,” said Rasa CEO Wendy Alberts to fellow restaurant owners.
The organisation had called for an urgent inter-ministerial meeting to have their demands on the sale of alcohol allowed at restaurants and the easing of the national curfew, which is now from 11pm to 4am.