Taverns ready to sell booze after months of no income

18 August 2020 - 06:30 By Nonkululeko Njilo
People queuing outside Supa store in Thokoza Park, Soweto, after the first lifting of the alcohol ban at the beginning of June.
People queuing outside Supa store in Thokoza Park, Soweto, after the first lifting of the alcohol ban at the beginning of June.
Image: Nonkululeko Njilo

Local taverns and bottle stores are preparing to open their doors under eased level 2 lockdown laws — and they say they are ready.

Cogta minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma announced that taverns and bars may sell booze up to the 10pm curfew.

The lifting of the alcohol ban has been met with mixed emotions. Nhlanhla Shabalala, manager of Toto’s liquor in Diepkloof, Soweto, said he welcomed the decision — but said the two bans had crippled the business.

“The closure hit us really hard. We are in huge debt and we did not get any relief. All the capital we had was used to settle some debt and for our families to survive,” he said.

“We are not entirely ready because we could not stock up enough. We will be opening but not with full capacity.”

'It's been a roller-coaster ride': bottle stores get back to business​

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The curfew will further delay the business from picking up, said Shabalala.

“We hope to recover and pick in the next few months. It won’t be easy because we are still not allowed to operate until midnight.”

Tau Chikonye, senior manager at Supa Stores, also in Soweto, said they were ready to open. Long, snaking queues are common features at the store.

“We are quite prepared in terms of stock because, at the time of closing with immediate effect, we did have stock sitting. We have been handling quite high volumes of people, so we are prepared. We have little barricades, security personnel, megaphones so we can communicate with customers in the queue and of course proper sanitisation,” he said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on August 15 2020 that South Africa will be moving to lockdown alert level 2 from Tuesday August 18. Co-operative governance minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma expanded on the new regulations on August 17, announcing many restrictions will be lifted, including bans on alcohol and tobacco sales. Here's all you need to know about what's allowed and what's not during lockdown level 2.

Chikonye said the reopening would allow the company to reinstate staff members who had been laid off.

“We’ve brought back cashiers and staff which had been laid off and were relying on UIF for survival,” he said.

While some people had expressed concern over the quality of beverages that had been stored for a while, Chikonye said stale drinks would not be sold.

“We are doing such an audit. Whatever has expired will not be sold. This will definitely contribute negatively to the business. We are still tallying up the figures in terms of losses.”

Supermarket giant Game said it was prepared to reopen its liquor section in all 61 stores across the country.

“We are fully stocked on all products and have implemented stringent safety procedures and protocols to ensure a safe and seamless shopping experience for all customers,” said manager Gia Costella.

Beer, cider, box wines, whisky, brandy and vodka were some of the best selling beverages prior the lockdown.

Game said safety and health protocols would be followed on Tuesday.  

“Temperatures will be checked upon entry. Both staff and consumers are required to wear masks at all times and keep a safe distance of 2m from each other. Where customers are in groups or couples, only one customer will be allowed in at a time from that group or couple,” said Costella.

“Customers are also encouraged to only touch the products they intend to buy and to pay by card or mobile app where possible.”