Police minister Bheki Cele. Picture: GCIS
Police minister Bheki Cele. Picture: GCIS

Liquor outlets risk losing their operating licences if they flout the lockdown regulations, police minister Bheki Cele warned on Tuesday.

The alcohol industry has been one of the most heavily regulated during the national lockdown, which was imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19. The industry has seen two prohibitions on liquor sales since the lockdown started at the end of March.

The ban on alcohol dealt a devastating blow to the entire supply chain and was only lifted when SA moved to level 2 of the lockdown. 

The first ban, which lasted about 10-weeks, cost the liquor industry about R18bn in lost revenue and led to the loss of more than 100,000 jobs. A similar number of losses is projected for the second ban, which was re-introduced without notice.

Earlier in September, after sales had resumed, the Beer Association of SA said it would request the details from municipalities and provincial liquor authorities of businesses that have had their licences revoked so as to stop supplying them with alcohol.

Cele told a media briefing on Tuesday that he had joined police operations over the past weekend in Ekurhuleni in Gauteng, and they came across several shebeens and taverns operating way past the stipulated 10pm curfew under alert level 2.

SA went to alert level 1 on Monday and pushed the curfew from 10pm to 12am, while also extending the days on which alcohol can be sold on non-consumption premises from Monday to Friday. 

Cele said it was disturbing that some liquor outlets squeezed patrons inside their venues with shut windows and doors. “This is done to look as if the business is closed for the night, meanwhile, drinking and socialising in the confined space is ongoing until the early hours of the morning.” 

He said it was not only taverns breaking the rules, but also some restaurants and eateries. “I want to remind all the business owners who insist on flouting the rules — the long arm of the law will catch up with you and you will also lose your operating licence,” Cele said. 

While alcohol was one of the keys areas regulated, the lockdown also had a myriad of other regulations, which resulted in, among other things, the sale of tobacco and public gatherings being prohibited. 

Cele said 310,494 people had been arrested and charged with contravening the Disaster Management Act for violating these regulations, with the violations ranging from liquor, transport and cross border-related offences.

The Western Cape recorded the most arrests with 72,137 followed by Gauteng with 59,000.

“The public is reminded that while social gatherings, including concerts and live performances are permitted, nightclubs still have to shut their doors,” Cele said. 

No more than 100 mourners can attend a funeral, while night vigils are still not permitted.

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The team at Mesh Club have opened an alcohol-free bar on Rosebank’s trendiest strip, the Keyes Art Mile. The new space is cleverly named Niks Bar, which is a play on the popular members’ club’s in-house Mix Bar, as well as a nod to the fact that no booze will be served — niks is Afrikaans for “nothing”.

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