Liquor law amendments: significant implications for consumers and liquor licence holders
In the past week, the Department of Trade and Industry published its Final National Liquor Policy on 30 September. The Policy outlines recommendations for amendments to the national Liquor Act. At the same time, the Western Cape Provincial Cabinet published its Alcohol-related Harms Reduction Policy for public comment. Both these documents contain significant implications for consumers and liquor licence holders in terms of how people sell, buy and enjoy alcohol responsibly.
Many of the proposals are ones which have been mooted previously but which have now moved one step closer to reality. There is one more opportunity to object to these laws which will have impacts not only on responsible drinkers, but also for commerce, tourism and ultimately agriculture – we have until Friday 28th October to comment on the National Liquor Policy and until 30th November to comment on the Western Cape proposals.
Whilst most people agree that alcohol abuse is a bad thing, It is hard to see how many of the proposed amendments will be monitored and policed, specifically the raising of the national minimum legal age at which alcohol can be purchased and consumed from 18 to 21 years – are we seriously going to tell adults who’ve been drinking legally that they must now stop for the next couple of years until they turn 21?
Here are some of the main points of the Final National Liquor Policy proposals according to liquor lawyer Danie Cronje of Danie Cronje Attorneys in Stellenbosch:
Restrictions and parameters for advertising and marketing of liquor products
The following measures are mentioned: advertisements may only be broadcast from 22h00 to 06h00, content appealing to youth in alcohol advertising should be removed, for example using sport stars and branding of liquor premises and delivery trucks should be prohibited.
Reduced trading hours
Increased restrictions to days and hours when liquor sales will be permitted.
Raising the minimum age
The national minimum legal age at which alcohol can be purchased and consumed will be raised from eighteen (18) to twenty one (21) years.
The 500m rule
New liquor premises must be located at least five hundred meters (500m) away from schools, places of worship; recreation facilities, rehabilitation or retreat centres, residential areas and public institutions. Stricter conditions for sales will be imposed on existing premises located within the 500 meter radius.
No liquor licenses will be issued to petrol service stations
This includes premises attached to petrol service stations or premises near public transport.
Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE)
The National Liquor Authority will be empowered to ensure that licensing conditions as articulated in the Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) Codes of Good Practice are imposed and strictly monitored. Noncompliance to the BBBEE Codes will result in the suspension or revocation of the licence.
In addition, there are further measures proposed for both new and existing liquor licence holders in the Western Cape which will add considerably to the costs of obtaining and keeping a liquor licence – costs which will ultimately trickle down to consumers.
Application for liquor licenses
The administrative burden and cost of liquor licence applications will be shifted from the Liquor Authority, Municipalities and the Police to applicants. This means the applicant will be required to conduct the public participation process which includes contacting the municipality, neighbours, community based organisations etc. and to pay for advertisements in the newspapers.
In addition, police clearance certificates will be required for shareholders and directors of applicants. (This requirement has been introduced in other provinces and increases the cost of applications and also extends the timeline.)
Management of licensed premises
Managers appointed for licensed premises will have to undergo training and will be required to pass a test on compliance with the Act. It is proposed that a licence holder or manager must be on site at all times when the outlet is open for business.
Limit on licenses based on alcohol related harms
It also proposed that in areas where there is a higher incidence of alcohol related harms, the number of licenses should be limited and once such limit is reached, no new licenses will be granted.
Renewal fees based on volume
Applicants will pay annual renewals based on the volume of alcohol sold.
Phasing out of grocers’ wine licenses
It is proposed that grocers’ licenses will be phased out where there is an off-consumption liquor outlet within 50 meters of that grocers’ store. This is obviously of major significance for retailers who either have their own liquor stores close to their supermarkets or have supermarkets located in the vicinity of liquor stores operated by third parties.
Reduced trading hours
It is also proposed that trading hours be reduced for on- and off-consumption outlets.
Increased excise and minimum unit pricing
The national government will be lobbied to increase the price of alcohol through increased excise tax and/or introducing minimum unit pricing.
Although these proposals may be made with the best of intentions, it appears that they will negatively impact the majority of citizens who buy, sell and enjoy alcohol responsibly whilst completely failing to address the very real issues which are mostly concerned with non-compliance with existing laws.
If these were enforced effectively and consistently – would there be any need for change at all?
For comments on the National Liquor Policy, contact Danie Cronje on email@example.com and if you would like to comment on the Western Cape Green Paper, the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to register a comment on these proposals, you are urged to contact:
Department of Trade and Industry
Private Bag x84
Email: NRamphele@thedti.gov.za For the attention of Ms Nkoe Ramphele