Taverns have urged the government to allow them to sell alcohol for home consumption and to waive their annual licence fees to save their businesses during the alcohol ban. 

The National Liquor Traders (NLT) has called on liquor authorities in all provinces this week to urgently waive their annual alcohol trading licences due to the extended loss of trading as a result of the alcohol ban.

The organisation said it had also called upon the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) to at least allow taverns to trade for home consumption. The NCCC is expected to review the current Level 4 lockdown restrictions, which include a total prohibition of alcohol, when the restrictions expire on Sunday 11 July.  The NLT is hoping that the NCC will weigh up the severe impact on business and consider reopening the alcohol industry, at least for off-site consumption sales, for now, to give it a chance to survive.

NLT convenor Lucky Ntimane said outlets had lost almost 150 days of trading since the imposition of the alcohol ban and lockdowns. 

“During this time, our members have not been included in any of the financial assistance offered by the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (TERS),” said Ntimane. 

“Our request for R20 000 compensation package for tavern and shebeen owners has been ignored. Instead, we are being driven further into poverty with the imposition of additional bans.” 

The NLT asks that the 36,000 registered taverns be exempted from the payment of annual liquor licence fees averaged at R5,000 per licence. The waiving of the licence fees will amount to about R180 million worth of relief for these struggling businesses that support much of the townships and rural economy. 

Ntimane said the requested R20,000 economic relief package per tavern would amount to R720 million. 

“This relief package is far less than what the government used to bail out Mango, and less than 10% of what it spent to bail out a non-functioning entity, SA Airways,” he said. 

The alcohol industry has estimated that it will lose retail sales revenue worth R6.1 billion as a direct result of the current two-week ban. The potential direct loss in GDP is estimated to be R3.8 billion. Government will lose an estimated R3.6 billion in direct tax revenue (excluding excise tax) for the two weeks, and the potential direct excise tax income lost is estimated to be R 1.5 billion. 

Ntimane said apart from the enormous economic losses, the alcohol ban put people’s livelihoods at stake. 

“If we are to survive, now and in the post-COVID-19 era, further job losses must be avoided. The call for a waiver is a last-ditch attempt to keep trading. The current 14-day ban puts more than 4,600 jobs at risk,” he said. 

“The industry reckons more than 233,500 jobs are on the line due to the prohibition measures. We need to get back to work, for the country, for our businesses and our families and dependents.” 

He said the industry shared the concerns about the sharp rise in COVID-19 infections and the threat to life that this poses and called on the government to reassess its response to the pandemic by implementing more effective measures, including addressing its handling of the vaccine rollout.

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Presh JM Reporter

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