SA Breweries (SAB) said on Sunday it had put forward several proposals to government on the regulated sale of alcohol under level 3 lockdown to avoid scenes witnessed in India where consumers clamoured to buy alcohol when the booze ban was lifted.
The sale of alcohol during the lockdown has been a highly contentious issue with many arguing that the ban, coupled with travel restrictions, has seen a marked decline in admissions to emergency rooms, freeing up critical hospital infrastructure. Proponents have also stressed the ban has helped maintain social distancing.
But many have sharply criticised the government for the ongoing ban and its impact on the already battered economy.
President Cyril Ramaphosa is set to address the nation on Sunday evening about the move to level 3 of the lockdown and what it will entail.
“We want to be part of the solution, and regard the proposals put forward by the business and the industry as having taken serious consideration to resuscitating our economy as well as ensuring that our customers and retailers remain safe,” Zoleka Lisa, VP corporate affairs at SAB said in a statement.
“In the government’s ‘Risk Adjusted Strategy’, the sale of alcohol was to be considered in level 3 with restricted trading hours of three hours per day and for three days a week, which we believe will cause people to gather in masses which will contravene the government’s efforts to enforce social distancing to flatten the curve”, Lisa warned.
“We want to appeal to government that as they deliberate on the trade of regulated alcohol, they consider allowing for sufficient sales channels, reasonable trading hours and number of days.”
To avoid what happened in countries, such as India when the alcohol ban was lifted, the industry had proposed opening more legal channels on various days to allow customers enough time to buy and maintain social distancing protocols.
The proposals by the industry included allowing licensed off-consumption outlets to sell alcohol, subject to strict social distancing requirements and restricted hours of trade. The industry proposed opening for trade on Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm, on Saturdays until 4pm and no sales on Sundays or public holidays.
It was also proposed that on-consumption outlets be allowed to sell subject to strict social distancing requirements and within restricted hours of trade. This would include granting a special dispensation for licensed taverns to operate strictly as off-consumption outlets.
SAB said the beer economy could help to support the economy and its recovery.
The EFF has opposed the lifting of the ban on alcohol sales.