THE LIQOUR and restaurant industries are lamenting the 14-day total ban on the sale of alcohol and the restrictions against eating out in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The industries yesterday raised concerns about the absence of relief measures – as they are still reeling from fixed costs such as rentals, electricity and staff wages.
The South African Liquor Brandowners Association (Salba) said there was no evidence to suggest alcohol consumption was the driver of the current rise in infection rates.
Salba chairperson Sibani Mngadi said that the government should concentrate on generating greater efficiency in South Africa’s vaccine roll-out to allow for the economy to open up.
“The ban is being implemented without any consideration for any form of economic relief for businesses and employees of the industries that are now being restricted,” Mngadi said.
President Cyril Ramaphosa on
Sunday moved the country back to adjusted level 4 lockdown as the government scrambles to deal with the third wave of Covid-19 infections.
However, Ramaphosa’s announcement was silent on what relief measures would be offered to affected industries amid an already too stretched fiscus.
The cumulative economic impact of the three previous alcohol bans has already risked more than 200 200 jobs, with a tax revenue loss of R29.3 billion.
The National Liquor Traders Council (NTLC) said the ban would subject nearly 40 000 township-based taverns and bottles stores to almost perpetual poverty with no means to cushion them against the blow.
NTLC convenor Lucky Ntimane said they were consulting their members as they felt “targeted” by this decision.
“We are not going to let this decision by the president stand. We are going to take him on,” Ntimane said.
“We are going to consult with our members today. If needs be, it means we will defy this ban.”
Many businesses have been struggling to survive due to lockdown restrictions imposed on the sale of liquor since the first lockdown was
announced in March 2020.
Restaurant Association of SA’s chief executive Wendy Alberts said these restrictions may be the final blow to the industry following last year’s devastation.
“Yet again, restaurants will be hardest hit, with no Ters (Temporary Employer Relief Scheme), no financial support. The industry is going to be destroyed,” she said.
The Consumer Goods Council of SA (CGCSA) said the ban came despite numerous appeals to consider alternative measures to protect both businesses and jobs.
The CGCSA had recommended that the government allow for the sale of liquor for off-site consumption for all liquor traders.
“We understand and support measures to protect lives and livelihoods, but this has to be balanced with also protecting jobs and businesses,” it said.
North West Business School Prof Raymond Parsons said the restrictions could now still exact an economic toll of certain sectors of the economy.
“It is a pity that there was no indication of possible renewed support measures to offset the potential business distress and job losses that may now develop,” Parsons said.