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Raising legal drinking age from 18 to 21 - and other new liquor law proposals

More proposed changes coming that will affect the way we all consume and enjoy alcohol in restaurants, clubs and bars.

29 Jun 2015


29 June 2015, Cape Town -

Following an alert by Green Point restaurant, El Burro, it appears there are more problems ahead for liquor licence holders and subsequently, the way we all consume and enjoy alcohol in restaurants, clubs and bars.

What is proposed?

The government has published a national Liquor Policy Review (read the full document here ) which proposes the following changes to current law:

  • Raising the limit to buy and consume alcohol from 18 to 21 years of age.
  • Preventing liquor sales from any outlet which is within 500m of a school, place of worship, recreation facilities, rehabilitation or treatment centres, residential areas and public institutions (which would include post offices). Further, no liquor licenses shall be issued to petrol service stations, premises attached to petrol service stations or premises near public transport.
  • Any existing liquor licence held by an outlet which will be affected by the above legislation will lose that licence within the next 2 years.
  • Standardisation of opening hours throughout the country.
  • Restriction of advertisement of alcoholic beverages, prohibitions of sponsorship and promotion associated with alcoholic beverages.
  • Proposal to make manufacturers and distributors of alcohol responsible and liable for damages and harm caused if a person drinks to excess and is then involved in a car accident or a crime.

How will this affect me?

If you are 18 and currently enjoy a beer on a Friday night, you will have to give this up for 3 years. The law was recently amended to establish that people are legally considered adults from the age of 18 so it is difficult to see how people can vote, have the right to marry etc etc but not be allowed to purchase alcohol. No liquor sales at recreation facilities would include sports stadiums – imagine watching a Stormers game without a beer!

And apart from the V & A Waterfront (and even that might be too close to Somerset Hospital), there seems little hope for most other licenced premises being allowed to continue to trade. Is the airport to be considered public transport? No wine before take-off if so. And the really interesting point is the proposed wording which makes SAB responsible for damages if someone drinks too much beer, drives home and runs down a pedestrian en route. Legislation already makes it the responsibility of a retailer not to sell to a drunk person, but these proposed changes are taking it to the next level.

But are these proposed changes serious?

Yes, they are. The real issue behind this is the difference between national government and provincial and municipal governments. At this point, the national government cannot interfere with liquor law as it affects retailers within a province – for example when it comes to determining who gets a liquor licence and how long they can trade. But the national government has issued what they call ‘norms and standards’ and is now attempting to get every province to adopt these as part of their own laws.

According to liquor licence lawyer, Danie Cronje, the Western Cape Liquor Authority is treating these standards almost as if they already apply within the Western Cape. Furthermore, he says that the CEO of the Western Cape Liquor Authority has already indicated that he will accept these national norms and standards and will make them part of provincial law.

What can we do?

If you think that these suggested policies are wrong, you need to object now. Danie Cronje says that calls for common sense are going to be the most effective – is it fair to expect 18 year old adults not to be allowed to drink? If a school closes at 4pm and a restaurant opens at 6pm then is that really a problem? And can it ever be reasonable to hold SAB accountable for every road death etc etc? How on earth will this be enforced? The deadline for objections has been extended to 13th August 2015 and you need to send them here:

Director-General, Department of Trade and Industry

Private Bag X84



Or, Hand deliver to:

77 Meintjies Street

Block B, 1st Floor



Fax No : 012- 394 6573

Or Email : 

For Attention of Ms Nkoe Ramphele

Not only is this interfering with our responsible enjoyment of alcohol, it is also interfering with the way our everyday lives are managed and run. Perhaps it is the beginning of the end for provincial government – despite the fact that provincial government’s rights to rule on liquor matters is enshrined in the Constitution – but it is certain that if national government has its way, then ‘one size fits all’ will be the rule going ahead. And whose size we’ll be measuring up against, is anyone’s guess.

If you require detailed advice as to how these proposed changes may affect you and your business, you can contact Danie Cronje at Cluver Markotter on

- Cathy Marston


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