Fury over bid to ban Sunday liquor sales

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sunday liquor ban THE STAR An entertainer balances a beer bottle on a knife at Sammy Marks Square in Pretoria. Liquor traders have vowed to fight a proposed ban on Sunday sales. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

Johannesburg - Gauteng’s proposed total ban on the sale of alcohol on Sundays has been met with outrage from consumers and traders alike.

Their feelings are likely to be made forcefully when the time comes to oppose the proposed regulations.

Their opposition has already received support from an improbable ally in the Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use, which believes the provincial government’s plan aimed at reducing alcohol abuse could just worsen it.

Adrian Botha, the director of the organisation, said an alcohol-free Sunday was likely to lead to a rise in abuse and more illegal liquor outlets.

People would start stocking up on Saturdays and, in the end, drink more than they would normally do.

He said it would also be difficult for businesses and consumers to adapt as “there has never been a total ban on alcohol on Sunday anywhere in South Africa”.

Gauteng has published the proposed draft liquor regulations and invited comments from the public and other interested parties. Comments had to be be submitted in writing within 30 days from the 25th of last month.

Meanwhile, liquor traders said they were hard at work mobilising their colleagues and consumers to oppose restrictions and a Sunday ban.

According to the proposal, restricted hours on weekdays would see sorghum beer traders operate between 10am and 10pm, while off-consumption licensees like bottle- stores would open between 10am and 8pm.

Taverns, shebeens, pubs, licensed restaurants and sports facilities would trade between 10am and 2am.

But if the Gauteng provincial government gets its way, no bottlestore, tavern, shebeen, restaurant or liquor outlet will sell alcohol for consumption on or off business premises on a Sunday.

Liquor traders have vowed to launch a fierce battle and challenge the ban until they run out of options.

The South African Liquor Traders Association (Salta) said a Sunday ban would hurt mostly small businesses like township taverns, shebeens and bottlestores.

“We make our money over the weekend because the culture in the townships is that this is leisure time when people come together in celebration or after a funeral, and they drink.

“Sunday is even more relaxed because there are not too many funerals, so people want to socialise, and if we’re closed, then we’re losing a huge chunk of revenue,” said Salta president Saint Madlala.

“If we lose out on making money, then this will contribute to unemployment because at the moment we are employing ourselves and other people. By so doing, we are relieving the government of some burden.

“If they have a good reason to ban alcohol, why can’t they do it on a Tuesday or Thursday?”

The Gauteng Liquor Forum shared Salta’s sentiments, but said it would suggest in its submissions by the organisation and its members that, rather than a total ban, the province should decrease alcohol trading hours.

“We don’t understand why they’re proposing a ban on Sundays when it is our culture that we host stokvels and functions over the weekend,” said forum spokesman Linda Madida.

Also taking a swipe at the provincial government was Margaret Monyai, who said: “The very same provincial government failed to bring the Bafana Bafana Afcon games to more venues in Gauteng. We only had the opening match at FNB. We had to watch the rest of the knockout games on TVs at our popular pubs and taverns. How do they expect us to spend our Sundays? To drink tea and watch soccer?”

Fikile – a property agent who asked that his surname not to be used – vehemently opposed the proposal.

“What are we to do on Sundays? That’s the only day I can spend quality time with my friends, relaxing and drinking a lot,” Fikile said.

“They are mad. It started in Cape Town and it failed. The ANC Youth League also came with the same proposal and it also never succeeded. The problem is that the cops are not doing their job. They instead blame the rise in domestic violence on alcohol,” fumed Patrick Tladi.

“The very same cops must be seen to put people who abuse their wives and children behind bars. The abusers must face the full might of the law,” Tladi said. - Additional reporting by Baldwin Ndaba

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