Johannesburg - The Bay Taverners Association says government’s proposed National Liquor Policy will destroy taverns and related small businesses in townships.

This is contained in its submission to the Department of Trade and Industry on the proposed new rules.

The department published the policy for comments in May. Under the proposed policy, the legal drinking age would be raised from 18 to 21 years,.

In addition, its also proposes liquor premises be located at least 500m away from schools, places of worship, recreation and entertainment facilities, and nowhere near a cinema, casino, rehabilitation or treatment centres, residential areas and public institutions.

Trade and industry argues the policy is needed because liquor is associated with a wide range of medical conditions, including cirrhosis, cancers of the tongue, mouth and throat, as well as depression. This is in addition to the physical and emotional harm caused by people under the influence of liquor.

It also argues people over the age of 21 are more mature and less likely to drive drunk.

However, the new rules will have several unintended consequences, according to those opposed to them.

Leon Louw, executive director of the Free Market Foundation (FMF), has already argued that the policy would drive most retail licensees out of business, especially where no or insufficient premises are zoned for entertainment or liquor trading or are far from customers.

“Relocating pubs and taverns far from public transport so patrons have to drive there and back would increase the incidence of drunk driving.”

Not sensible

Now the Bay Taverners Association has added its voice to the outcry. The association, which represents more than 70 tavern outlets in and around Port Elizabeth, argues the policy will put many bars out of business.

This is based on its canvass of more than 1 500 licensed on-consumption taverns in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, which each employ about ten people, many of which are family members. In addition, many informal traders set up food and other stalls outside the taverns, and these traders employ a number of people as well.

Secretary Tammy Nqam says “our taverns are mainly in residential areas and the proposal would shut us down and put us out of business. Unlike wealthy suburbs, we do not have separate designated areas that are zoned only for businesses.”

Nqam adds the law is anti small businesses, which government has recognised as being key to the country’s economic growth.

While the policy is very detailed in terms of protecting the health and safety of patrons, it fails to take account of township realities, she adds.

“We are therefore very concerned by the fact that there is no mention of closed off indoor smoking areas in this policy. These are an important facility for our patrons. It is the perfect solution as it protects both smokers and non-smokers. We want the rules for designated indoor smoking areas to be included in the policy, as it is in the original Act.

“We do know the government wants to outlaw indoor smoking areas and has proposed smoking only be allowed 10 metres from a window, entrance or walkway. In most townships every window, entrance or walkway is less than 10 metres away from the next window, entrance or walkway. This is another example of a government which is out of touch with the lives of its people.”

Nqam says it seems as if the government’s proposal was designed without any recognition of the reality of township life. She adds the increase of the renewal fee from R250 to R2 500 was decided without any consultation. “This will close us down altogether.”

 

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