Beer industry calls for end to liquor ban to avoid industry collapse

The beer industry has called for the lockdown ban on alcohol sales to be lifted so legal businesses can operate to avoid further damage to the industry and the millions of livelihoods it supports. The Beer Association of SA (Basa) recently said it had, together with the Liquor Traders Association of SA and wine industry association Vinpro, written to trade, industry and competition minister, Ebrahim Patel requesting an urgent meeting to discuss the devastating impact of the ban.

The organisations also want to discuss alternative interventions that could save lives and livelihoods during the Covid-19 pandemic. Basa, which comprises the Craft Brewers Association, Heineken SA and SA Breweries, said it was estimated the latest four-week ban had put 9,206 jobs in the alcohol industry at risk, with a potential loss of R10.2bn in taxes and excise duties.

It said the three previous bans led to the loss of 7,400 jobs in the beer industry alone, R14.2bn in lost beer sales revenue and a more than R7.8bn loss in taxes and excise duties. Basa said it had been inundated with stories from craft brewers whose businesses were devastated by the latest ban just as they were slowly getting back on their feet after the previous three bans. One of those affected was Aegir Project Brewery in Noordhoek, established in 2015 and thriving before the lockdown and prohibition on the sale of alcohol.

Basa said the brewery had expanded its staff complement of 12 to 60 and opened a second restaurant in Constantia, Cape Town. As a result of the bans, the new restaurant closed permanently, putting six people out of work. Since then, a further 12 staff were retrenched and the remaining staff had to work on short time and short pay.

Aegir Project owner Rory Lancellas said he went from increasing the staff compliment fivefold to identifying the most vulnerable staff — with families and children — so he could prioritise their income over others.

“We cannot sustain this for much longer. I also have children. It’s very hard to watch families go through this,” Lancellas said.

Another battered business was Airport Craft Breweries, which opened in 2014 in the domestic departure and arrivals at OR Tambo International Airport. Before the lockdown it employed just over 100 staff. More than half have subsequently lost their jobs as a result of the bans. Basa said these businesses and thousands of others would not survive a continued alcohol ban.

It said many South Africans were obtaining alcohol through the illicit industry. Basa said the mass looting of liquor outlets and distributors last week in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng had served to boost the illegal sale of alcohol even further, making the ban more nonsensical.

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