The policy, which is open for comment until next Thursday, proposes that 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. File picture: Smitry Kostyukov

Cape Town - Social problems related to alcohol abuse should be addressed rather than implementing the Department of Trade and Industry’s national liquor policy (NLP).

Experts says the implementation of the NLP will lead to the closure of many licensed businesses, impacting on the livelihoods of hundreds of people.

The policy, which is open for comment until next Thursday, proposes that 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.

Leon Louw, executive director of the Free Market Foundation (FMF), said the proposals were unjustifiably disproportionate.

Louw said it would drive most retail licensees out of business, particularly 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.”

He said the proposals also provided that if a licence had already been issued, it would be terminated within two years.

“If this is implemented, with it would go myriad small businesses and entrepreneurial stalls that set up shop next to taverns and shebeens precisely because this is where their customers are.

“Owners and staff would lose their livelihoods.”

Ian Cruickshanks, chief economist at the South African Institute of Race Relations, said the government should rather educate people about the dangers of alcohol abuse and encourage role models and education.

He said the government should recruit sports people, for instance, to go into communities as role models and as testament of what they have made of their lives.

Janine Myburgh, president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the chamber agreed that liquor abuse was a problem: “We pay for it in absenteeism, accidents, demotivated staff and other social and labour problems and we would like to see these problems dealt with, but instead we see some absurd proposals like the 500m rule.”

She said in Cape Town there were many examples of liquor establishments which are in close proximity to places of worship.

Myburgh said the area where attention is desperately required is the drinking and driving problem as the answers lie in strict law enforcement rather than regulating the supply of liquor: “We believe the best defence against the misuse of liquor is to ensure that the industry remains in the open and as visible as possible.

“This will make it easier to monitor and enforce the necessary regulations.”

CAPE ARGUS