“Any recovery seen in the [beer industry] will be eradicated should another [alcohol] ban be enforced by the government over the festive season.”
This warning comes from industry body the Beer Association of South Africa (Basa) after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Sunday 12 September that Covid-19 restrictions have now moved down to level two with a resultant relaxation of rules around the sale of alcohol.
The sale and on-site consumption of alcohol is now permitted every day of the week until 10pm, with off-site alcohol sales allowed from Monday to Friday between 10am and 6pm.
Ramaphosa said the government was aware that an outright ban on alcohol sales from early last year, when the Covid-19 pandemic first struck, had hurt the industry.
“I speak of the owners of restaurants, bars, taverns, hotels, conference venues and others in the hospitality sector that have seen massive decline in their business,” he said.
“We recognise the hardships and will continue to find ways, within our means, of supporting these sectors and taking steps to enable their recovery.”
The beer association said it was concerned that a possible fourth wave of Covid-19 infections in December could trigger another ban during the festive season.
“The [latest] further easing of restrictions will provide some reprieve to those businesses that have survived the four alcohol bans, which forced the industry to shut down for 161 days since March last year putting just over 240 000 jobs at risk,” it said.
“With this period also being the busiest time for liquor outlets and establishments, another alcohol ban will no doubt be the final nail in the coffin for thousands of businesses and the jobs they support.”
On 31 August the association’s officials appeared before parliament’s standing committee on finance seeking excise tax relief for the beer industry. The officials said the sector had already been devastated by four alcohol bans over the past year-and-a-half.
The government has repeatedly argued that the bans were necessary to avoid trauma cases linked to drunkenness overwhelming health centres, which were stretched to capacity treating Covid-19 patients.
Basa said more than 200 craft breweries — which had not received relief from the government — had been hit hard, with 30% being forced to shut their doors permanently. The association has called for proper consultation between business and the government before any new Covid-19 alcohol-related regulations are announced in coming months.