Last orders at tavern amid underage booze uproar
Cape Town's "tavern of death" shut its doors yesterday amid calls for stricter policing of underage drinking and proper licensing. It took just minutes for the Western Cape Liquor Tribunal to order Osi's Place in Khayelitsha to temporarily close until a full hearing on August 17.This follows a stampede at the tavern last week in which eight women aged between 15 and 23 died after celebrating the end of school exams.Sebastian van As, head of trauma at Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital in Cape Town, said the incident exposed the links between the "mainstreaming of alcohol in our society" and its dire consequences."We always see an increase in trauma during the festive seasons," Van As said. "And research shows that 70% of victims in trauma units test positive for alcohol.Yesterday's hearing was prompted by an urgent application brought by the Western Cape Liquor Authority to have Osi's licence suspended as a first step towards having it revoked.The authority's spokesman, Philip Prinsloo, said it would make its case for the permanent closure of the tavern at the full hearing next month.Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research's Lisa Vetten said the fact that alcohol was often seen as lucrative and bringing in "big money" was part of the reason underage drinking was not given enough attention."You get the impression that alcoholism is not seen as serious in comparison to murder," she said."Questions around who is operating with a licence, how many licences are granted and whether underage drinking is policed should be raised."The president of the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, Joan van Niekerk, said: "Owners need to ensure children are not there. We need to make sure that owners take responsibility."Osi' s Place owner Phumlani Abraham kept a low profile yesterday, but Philisiwe Thwalo, who lives opposite the tavern, said closing it was the right thing to do."It's painful because these are lives and some of them [the victims] were underage. You cannot be allowing 15-year-olds to be frequenting a tavern," she said.Another neighbour, Nompucuko Mvandaba, said many parents had experienced problems with the tavern, but hadn't known what to do."We have seen deaths in taverns, but that was bad. It has to be closed," she said, adding that her family also struggled to sleep because of the noise.