“These laws will never actually happen”...
I hear this every time I publish a new article about revisions and amendments to our liquor laws and yes, to be honest, not so much has actually changed over the years. Slight niggles, small losses of trading hours, increased hassle with liquor licences, but mostly manageable. But if you are still saying that nothing will ever change after this latest round of proposals, I would have to say “are you sure about that?” because frankly, I’m not.
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There are a couple of things which are making me more nervous about these latest proposals. Firstly – the timing. The government has published not only a National Liquor policy but also the draft amendments at the exact same time, accelerating the process to turning this into law.
There are less than 15 days left to object and then there will be a double-whammy of new rules ready to go. This speed is very concerning meaning that people have to be on the ball if they want their viewpoint to be known.
The second worrying aspect of this is the willingness of the provinces – specifically Western Cape – to join forces with national government. Right now, the power to legislate trading hours, advertising, liquor law application processes rests with the provinces and municipalities but the new National Liquor Act contains some sneaky little changes which will stop that.
The use of phrases such as ‘norms and standards’ and ‘harmonising laws nationally’ suggests that the government wants to remove provincial powers and institute a ‘one size fits all’ policy. Of course, it will need to change the Constitution if this is what it wants to do, but the fact that the Western Cape has published its own green paper of reforms at the same time which back up (and indeed extend) restrictions, suggests that this may only be a formality.
The main worry about these changes is the far-reaching implications for a number of businesses and industries. Let’s consider the raising of the drinking age to 21. Will this then mean that under 21s cannot handle alcohol in any way? How are students going to support themselves through university if they can’t waitress at the Spur? What other flexible, evening jobs are open to students if hospitality jobs become forbidden? What about wine farms who rely on students to make up their weekend, casual and seasonal staff?
And winemakers? How can we expect students to study oenology, viticulture etc if they can’t learn to taste wine? And finally, tourism implications. We have already seen tourism numbers drop as a result of the difficulties of travelling with children, and I think we could realistically expect to see a similar effect if 18-20 year olds cannot come and enjoy a glass of wine as they can in their home country or in any number of other holiday destinations.
The 500m ruling will also be interesting – initially only proposed as a barrier for new liquor licences, the proposed amendments will now allow for additional restrictions for existing licence-holders as well. Will there be compensation given for any business falling foul of this? It seems doubtful. In fact being a liquor licence holder seems to be coming more and more difficult anyway.
Applying for a liquor licence?
If you’re applying for a new liquor licence, I’d give up now. Firstly, you have to make sure you can get one in the area in which you want to open – that there aren’t too many other licence-holders around you and it’s not in the wrong area. Then it’s going to cost you a lot more in terms of paying for adverts, gathering consent from your neighbours and getting a police clearance certificate. If you manage to struggle through all that, you need to go on a training course along with your manager (will there be an additional cost bearing in mind you HAVE to complete them?) and if you finally navigate ALL these hurdles – your renewals will be based on the volumes of wine you sell. So the more successful you are, the more you’ll pay. As I say – I’d give up now.
According to the Green Paper on Alcohol-related Harms published by the Western Cape government, there are an estimated 3,483 unlicensed liquor outlets in the Western Cape – 34% of all places selling alcohol. The paper quotes figures from Tshwane as saying that 61% of underage drinkers have never been asked for their IDs. It is estimated that between 70-80% of all SAB products are consumed in the unlicensed and informal sector. If these abuses of the current laws were addressed, would there be any need for stricter controls at all?!
How you can act
If you would like to comment on the National Liquor Policy, please email Ms Nkoe Ramphele on NRamphele@thedti.gov.za and if you have a comment on the Western Cape Green Paper, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
For advice on all liquor law matters, contact Danie Cronje on email@example.com