Urgent court bid to sell booze pays off for retailer
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Pretoria - Shoprite Checkers this week asked the North Gauteng High Court this week in an urgent bid to be allowed to trade in liquor for now.
This as it awaits the Gauteng Provincial Liquor Board’s approval for licences in respect of at least nine of its stores.
Advocate Linda Pretorius argued that several outlets, completed and ready to commence trading, simply could not do so as the liquor board was dragging its heels in approving the licences.
Several of Shoprite Checkers’s liquor outlets also could not appoint prospective employees until the relevant businesses were allowed to sell liquor.
This, she said, hindered the applicant’s position where it could participate in job creation in the country and contribute to the economy, which this country so desperately needed.
Jean Marais, operations manager of Shoprite Checkers, said in papers before the court that they lodged their applications for liquor licences more than a year ago. They were, however, still awaiting approval from the board.
He said the applicant suffered damages on a month-to-month basis, and had spent enormous costs to establish the prospective premises/businesses of Shoprite, without the ability to trade in liquor.
This affects about nine of its Gauteng outlets –both with regards to its new liquor stores which cannot open its doors – as well as in some cases it's grocers’ wine outlets which cannot sell wine at this stage.
The applicant also had to enter into lease agreements with its respective landlords at its respective premises, for which it had to pay, while it could not trade.
It was argued that the impact which the Covid-19 pandemic and the national lockdown had on the economy, also played a role.
In was submitted that all spheres of government and also the private sector should apply themselves to working towards the efficient restoration of the economy.
“The crux of the matter remains that, at present, the prospective businesses of the applicant cannot commence to trade without liquor licences,” Pretorius said.
The liquor board did not file any opposing papers, but Pretorius said its excuse for not issuing these licences was in all probability the lockdown regulations.
However, she said that the country had been for about a year under less strict regulations.
She said operations such as the Gauteng Provincial Liquor Board could not hide behind the regulations as its officials should have been able to perform its functions once the country was out of hard lockdown.
The court, meanwhile, gave Shoprite Checkers the go-ahead to sell liquor at the outlets until the board comes to a decision on their licence applications.
The board was ordered to do so within 30 days.