No long queues or spikes in online sales as booze ban is lifted

26 July 2021 - 17:04 By kgaugelo masweneng
Liquor City on Beyers Naudé Drive, Johannesburg, usually experiences a rush of customers after a ban is lifted, but on Monday business was slow.
Liquor City on Beyers Naudé Drive, Johannesburg, usually experiences a rush of customers after a ban is lifted, but on Monday business was slow.
Image: Kgaugelo Masweneng

With alcohol sales unbanned on Sunday night, one might have expected a surge in people heading to liquor outlets to buy their booze. But it appeared that wasn't the case on Monday.

Liquor City on Beyers Naudé Drive, Johannesburg, usually experiences a high volume of customers after a ban is lifted — but on Monday business was slow.

Store manager Raymond de Freitas said they had not had a busy day.

“People drop by [but] we haven’t seen crazy numbers of people today. It wasn’t as busy as the other times,” he said.

President Cyril Ramaphosa moved the country to alert level 3 on Sunday. The move includes lifting the ban on alcohol sales and allowing small gatherings.

Licensed establishments will be permitted to sell alcohol for off-site consumption between Mondays and Thursdays.

“The sale of alcohol from retail outlets for off-site consumption will be permitted between 10am and 6pm from Monday to Thursday. Alcohol sales for on-site consumption will be permitted as per licence conditions up to 8pm,” said the president. 

SA had been under alert level 4 for a month.

Sarette van den Heever, owner of online alcohol shop Wijnbar, said their online sales had declined.

“It was an interesting day. We had numbers, but not as [much] as the last time. We’re in the middle of getting stock on-site and displaying,” she said.

“Online sales were lower this time around. Our customers are under pressure from an income perspective. But if it wasn’t for our online sales we wouldn’t have made it this far.

“We weren’t able to pay our staff and we hope the Ters money will come through. If they can’t help us out, I’m not sure how long we will be able to stay open.”

The South African Liquor Brand owners' Association (Salba) said it noted the government’s partial relaxation of the alcohol ban.

“The partial opening of sales, as well as three months' deferment in excise tax payments due on alcohol beverages, is a huge relief, but we are nowhere near being out of the woods, especially for the off-site consumption outlets that continue to be restricted to trading Monday to Thursday with no rationale or evidence provided for this decision, in spite of our many requests to secure this from government,” said chairperson Sibani Mngadi.

The government’s use of prohibition in response to the Covid-19 pandemic has had devastating consequences, he said. There was no justification for the prohibition, — implemented with no warning, no consultation and poor empirical justification — that prevented legitimate businesses supporting more than 1-million livelihoods across SA from operating, he added.

“Right now, our focus is on economic recovery, and the role our industry can play is critical.”

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