It was a slow start on day one of the official return to business by alcohol sellers. President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Monday night that the ban on the sale of alcohol imposed on 29 December was now lifted.
But unlike in the past when doors opened for alcohol sale, this time consumers did not flock to buy as usual.
Blue Liquor manager, Sonnet Le Roux, business was slowly picking up, but the number of customers was far lower than expected.
“We thought the store is going to be busy, but business is slow. Two customers walk in after 30 minutes. With the previous lockdown [when the ban was lifted] it was quite busy, from the morning until the afternoon,” Le Roux said.
This Randfontein liquor outlet manager said employees have not been paid since the ban was introduced in December, resulting in some looking for jobs elsewhere.
Tau Chikonye who is a Super Store Senior Manager in Dlamini, Soweto, called for members of the public to drink and behave responsibly.
“It’s really in the hands of the public. This COVID-19 has been with us for about a year now, I think there has to be some behavioural change,” he said.
Chikonye said the store lost some alcohol that expired.
“The ready to drink liquor has three to four months shelf life. I think we lost a few pallets because some liquor had expired and that added to our losses,” he said.
He said the store had to also let go of some cashiers because of low cash flows as alcohol sales contribute 30% of the income.
A tavern owner in Tladi who didn't want to be identified, said the alcohol sale ban left her with very little cash to replenish her stock again.
“We are not okay. We don’t have the money anymore, we are just pushing for the kids to return to school and get bread,” she said.
The sale at liquor outlets for off-site consumption is now permitted from Monday to Thursday, 10am to 6pm. In restaurants and taverns alcohol can be sold from 10am to 10pm throughout the week.
Lucky Ntimane, Convenor for the National Liquor Traders Council welcomed the unbanning of alcohol sales.
“We welcome the lifting of the ban and we hope this is the last time that alcohol industry and most certainly the taverns are subjected to humiliating bans without due regard to livelihoods that are dependent on the sector....compounded by the fact that government doesn’t provide us with any financial relief,” Ntimane said.