Liquor industry says easing of lockdown rules not enough to aid recovery, Newsline

Cape Town – The liquor industry has raised concerns over the continued restrictions on the off-consumption sale of alcohol.

The country moved to level 1 of the lockdown yesterday, and liquor outlets are allowed to sell alcohol from 9am to 5pm from Monday to Friday. However, it is still not allowed on weekends and public holidays.

South African Liquor Brandowners Association (Salba) chief executive Kurt Moore said while the industry acknowledged the challenges facing the government in its efforts to stem the pandemic and prevent a second wave of infections, the country needed to begin rebuilding the economy.

“Extension of trading days to Friday for off-consumption and two hours’ extension for on-consumption to midnight is a step in the right direction, but not far enough for our sector that is struggling to recover from the two waves of bans on formal sales of alcohol during the lockdown,” said Moore.

He said that with most of the indicators tracking the pandemic showing a positive decline, the key priority for the country was to focus on the economic recovery plan.

“Critical to the economic recovery is the efficient collection of existing revenue and the urgent need to close tax leakages from illicit alcohol trade. Limitations in the weekend off-consumption sale of alcohol continue to provide an opportunity for the illicit networks to expand,” said Moore.

VinPro managing director Rico Basson said relaxing the rules on on- consumption as well as indoor and outdoor events should allow traders to explore ways to reignite the sector.

However, he said the continued limitations on off-consumption on Saturday and Sunday was disappointing for the wineries that relied on direct sales from cellar doors for home consumption within strict Covid-19 protocols.

Western Cape Liquor Traders Organisation spokesperson, Lefa Mapilo, said most of their customers were from working communities and this would affect off-site trading. He said the industry wanted an engagement with the government on this.

“People only start supporting our businesses on weekends and holidays because during the week, they are at work. If this is about the spread of Covid-19 and the social distancing protocols, liquor stores are supposed to be operating for off-site consumption, unlike for on-site traders,” he said.

Cape Argus