Durban - A private school in Durban North, supported by government schools in the area, has taken on the Liquor Board in an attempt to get rid of a bottle store which, the principals say, attracts drunken vagrants who harass pupils.
Oakridge College, the local council ward committee, Northwood School and Virginia Preparatory School have all voiced objections to the bottle store at Checkers, Virginia Circle, and want an interdict shutting it down immediately pending a review of the approval of the licence by the board.
While Oakridge College and the ward committee say they were aware of the licence application and objected, the other schools, all less than 1km away, say they were not even informed as is required by law.
The urgent Durban High Court application, “brought in the interests of the safety and well-being of children in the area”, deals with the old Liquor Act which directs that the board consider the effect of any licence on places of worship and schools in the area.
The new act is more stringent and simply outlaws any licence being granted within 500m of a school.
In his affidavit, which came before Judge Dhaya Pillay on Monday, Oakridge principal and ward committee secretary Daryl Franks said the act stated that a licence could only be issued to premises near schools and churches if it was “in the public interest” and would not disturb the peace.
“It is our contention that the granting of the licence does not comply with this,” he said.
“The reason for our objection is that since the closure of the previous liquor store on the same premises there has been a decline in the number of drunk vagrants at the Virginia soccer ground (used by the college for sport), the Virginia bush and around other schools.
“We said there was no need for another liquor store in Durban North because, at the time, there were already 10 in the area.
“We said that it was not in the interests of the community, our learners or the general public who use the field for recreational purposes, such as walking their dogs.”
But the objection was overruled.
In a document before the court, lawyers for Checkers complain that the objection was received 18 months after the application was made.
They also allege that the college has got it wrong, because the application was for a grocer’s wine licence which would have no impact on the schools “because people who abuse liquor do not purchase upmarket wine products from a grocery store”.
“Checkers spends millions of rands each year to market its grocery stores and build its brand name. Its customers expect to conduct one-stop shopping.”
But Franks said the college did not get it wrong, because Checkers had applied for both a grocer’s licence and a liquor store licence.
“We never objected to the grocer’s licence because this involves the sale of table wine with an alcohol content of 14 percent or less in the store - an entirely different scenario to the establishment of a separate liquor store.”
He said Checkers also accused him of making “vague and unsubstantiated allegations” when, in fact, he could prove that while the previous bottle store was operating he had to call the police frequently to remove drunken vagrants who were sleeping in bush and harassing children in the area.
After it shut down, he did not have to call the police once, Franks said.
“Parents were no longer harassed by beggars seeking money for alcohol. There was a significant reduction in the presence of unsavoury characters.”
He said there were six schools with about 3 000 children and five churches in the vicinity of the bottle store and only he had been approached by the Liquor Board before the granting of the licence.
In supporting affidavits, Paul McAvoy of Northwood and Wayne Bannister of Virginia Prep both say they were not approached and would have objected if they had been.
Checkers and the Liquor Board have until early next month to file opposing papers and the matter will be back in court on October 6.
What is required for a liquor licence
The new Liquor Act, which came into effect earlier this year, states that those wishing to apply for a liquor licence must meet ‘public interest requirements’. These include:
* The applicant has to show there is a need for a liquor outlet in the area.
* The applicant has to look at the social impact of a liquor outlet in the area.
* The applicant has to propose a social responsibility programme in respect of alcohol consumption.
* All liquor licences, learning institutions, religious institutions and public recreational facilities within 500m have to be listed. Liquor licences will not be granted to outlets within 500m of learning institutions and places of worship.
* A security plan has to be provided.
Liquor Board spokesman Siva Naidoo said business trading licences should be issued by the relevant municipality and the applicant also required a police clearance certificate.
The act requires ‘proof of lawful occupation… in the form of title deed or a valid lease agreement’.
If the applicant is a legal business entity, a black economic empowerment rating certificate from a recognised source or approved rating agency is required by the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment Act.