Durban - If the Liquor Bill were to be passed in its current form, Durban tourism drawcard Max’s Lifestyle would probably have to shut down and lay off 150 employees, while it would be a hammer blow to tourism in Umlazi.
It also means that most of Florida Road’s establishments would have to stop selling alcohol because of a church within the distance provided for in the bill.
Max’s Lifestyle owner Max Mqadi is among thousands of venue owners and liquor traders in townships across the country worried about the future of their businesses.
The new law would bring in stringent regulations, which would include that there should be no selling alcohol to a person under the age of 21 as opposed to the current age restriction of 18.
Liquor traders are concerned that their businesses will no longer be allowed within a radius of 500m from schools, places of worship, health facilities and recreational centres.
Mqadi expressed concern on Tuesday that his business would be one of the bill’s victims as it was about 200m from a local church.
“I don’t think my employees should lose their jobs, and tourism be compromised just because of one church, which does not pay tax.”
He said new churches operating from tents were mushrooming in his area.
The international lifestyle magazine Conde Nast Traveler listed Mqadi’s business as among the 207 best restaurants in the world, and it has become a tourist attraction for Umlazi and Durban.
The bill was written in response to Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies’s concern about the high level of alcohol abuse. Davies said the country had the highest level of alcohol consumption in the world, “at 10-12 percent as compared to the world average of six percent”.
“We are also the highest with regards to foetal alcohol syndrome in the world,” he said.
Davies said the country was spending about R3.7-billion a year dealing with problems emanating from alcohol abuse.
“The proposals raised in the bill were also as a result of the benchmarks done in other countries, where it was proven that raising the alcohol consumption age assisted in reducing negative incidences related to alcohol consumption.”
Last week, the department gave traders and other concerned groups 30 days to make submissions for or against the bill.
The president of the South African Liquor Traders Association, Churchill Mohrasi, said his association was concerned that the 500m radius would mean many outlets in townships would have to close. Last year, the association proposed that there should be regulation of trading hours instead.
“These outlets mostly operate in the evenings because during the day people work, and when they come back that is when they relax in the outlets. Schools are closed then.
“It is unfortunate because in most cases our submissions just become a formality to say we were consulted, but nothing changes,” he said.
South African Liquor Brand Owners Association chief executive Kurt Moore said 30 days was not enough for consultation.
“We would certainly like more time to discuss the issues raised in the bill. We have made some attempts over the last year to engage with government on the policy, without much success.”
After the public hearings, which are expected to be completed on November 30, the bill will be sent to Parliament to be debated by various parties.
It will then be sent to President Jacob Zuma to be signed into law.