Lift booze ban to save R40bn tavern industry, council asks ‘uncaring govt’ – Citizen

Lift booze ban to save R40bn tavern industry, council asks ‘uncaring govt’ – Citizen

Help us to save the 34 500 taverns that are closed due to the ban on alcohol sales – and also the township economy – by lifting the ban, the National Liquor Traders Council (NLTC) is pleading with government.

Taverns’ contribution to the economy, specifically the township economy, is estimated by the department of trade, industry and competition to be between R40 billion and R60 billion annually, the council says.

Furthermore, the alcohol sales ban threatens the livelihoods of more than 34 500 tavern owners – 54% of which are women – with a knock-on effect that could see more than 500 000 people facing economic ruin, it added.

The council is also seeking a government support grant for its taverns via a once-off payment of R20 000 each, which will require further support of R690 million, it says in a statement.

NLTC convener Lucky Ntimane called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to outline when the ban on alcohol sales will be lifted and under what conditions.

“If the government acts now and lifts the ban, we can begin to recover and prevent this catastrophe,” he said.

“The unfortunate decision by President Cyril Ramaphosa to suspend the sale of alcohol has shattered the entire alcohol industry and its extensive value chain. The fact that the government failed to consult with the industry before the ban added salt to the already gaping wound.

“The government’s posture as regards support for taverns has been mute, and its lack of appetite to engage with the NLTC on the issue of preserving livelihoods and lifting the alcohol ban has been ignored,” said Ntimane.

“The government continues to treat the industry with disdain and with no alternatives for support being entertained or even acknowledged. This attitude is the hallmark of an uncaring government, which small business owners operating in the townships have been subjected to for a long time. It seems determined to reinforce the stereotypical perception of taverns and tavern-owners as, at best inconsequential, and at worst, irrelevant.”

NLTC chairperson Winston Hector added: “The cornerstone of the township economy is underpinned by two major industries: taxis and liquor. With liquor industry effectively being shut down, the township economy is on its knees with no sign of growth expected in the next few years. The worrisome trend is that black businesses in the township market continue to bear the brunt of an uncaring government not keen to supporting their growth, let alone their existence.”

As a stop-gap measure, the council has announced a Tavern Relief Programme that it is seeking to raise R100 million to support its 34 500 taverns over a two to three-month period by providing food parcels and other necessary supplies.

Ntimane says they hope to raise the money through industry partners and the general public. Through associations affiliated with the NLTC, it would identify taverns in need and respond accordingly.

“We have great faith in our entrepreneurial and resilient spirit. The NLTC is already embarking on a programme to mobilise the township liquor trade to honour the president’s call for a ‘social compact’ to help rebuild the economy and address specific issues in partnership with all stakeholders.”

The NLTC programme, he explained, was underpinned by four pillars: Tavern Dialogues, Social Impact Programmes, Tavern Support, and Government Engagement. The Dialogues will tell the real story behind the taverns, profiling their owners, and the critical social and economic role they lay in the community.

“Our Tavern Relief Programme is a bold initiative to ensure our survival, preserve our livelihoods, and restore our dignity,” explained Ntimane.

Ntimane has also called on government to agree to work together with the sector to properly plan and implement programmes and interventions that address issues arising out of the irresponsible use of alcohol.

“The NLTC and its members understand the need to bring about behavioural change to address the abuse of alcohol,” he added.

Through targeted interventions, it will continue to lead the fight against gender-based violence through:

  • The dialogues programme
  • The township Businesswomen of the Year initiative, and
  • the taverns business diversification programme.

Such an engagement with the government in formulating a common strategy to deal with issues of alcohol abuse and harm and create social impact remains “our top priority as we seek to continue our active role as leaders in the communities in which we operate”.

“But for these initiatives to succeed we need to engage with all stakeholders, including the government. The first step is to lift the suspension on alcohol immediately,” Ntimane said.

(Compiled by Carina Koen)

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