City of Cape Town officials were on Tuesday seeking a legal opinion in a bid to clarify a liquor by-law that will come into operation on the stroke of New Year.
The by-law sets the new “trading hours” for bars and clubs in business areas as 11am to 2am.
However there was some confusion at a city media briefing on Tuesday over whether this meant the clubs had to actually shut their doors at 2am, or merely stop selling liquor.
Chairman of the city's liquor policy task team Taki Amira said his interpretation was that it meant the businesses had to close at 2am.
Asked if that was the council's intention when it passed the by-law, he said: “I think you can put it that way. That's the understanding.”
However earlier, when he was questioned by a city businessman at the briefing on the issue, he advised the man to seek his own legal advice.
“If I was you I wouldn't take the risk “of staying open,” he added.
Aletta Williams, an official in the city's liquor compliance unit, said the unit would ask the city's legal department for an opinion on the issue on Tuesday.
Amira said the new by-law meant clubs and bars had to open an hour later, and it also did away with special extensions of trading to 4am.
It would also allow wineries within the city limits - such as Groot Constantia - to sell take-away wines on a Sunday.
In addition, it set up a formal procedure for members of the public to report irresponsible liquor traders, information which could lead to the restriction or cancellation of licences.
He said the task team had been mandated to come up with a system of halting the harm that alcohol caused to the community “which eventually ends up with drug abuse”.
Amira said people had complained that they were confused and that there had been no communication from the city over the by-law.
He begged to differ.
“There's been more than enough activity in the press, in media releases, in advertisements throughout,” he said.
“We've been supported by learned professors from 1/8the SA 3/8 Medical Research Council, we've been supported by research doctors from the department of health who've come out in support and said we support this by-law because we believe it is in some small way a measure to address the problems of social ills caused by alcohol.
“So when people say, we haven't been told, we haven't been communicated with, it shocks me.” - Sapa