The Liquor Traders Association of South Africa (LTASA) has submitted a document to the government on behalf of its members with recommendations around the sale of alcohol at level 3 lockdown.

The association represents 1,410 off-consumption liquor stores that employ over 14,000 people.

Alcohol sales will likely be allowed again under level 3 lockdown restrictions, which president Cyril Ramaphsa said is likely to happen before the end of the month.

“We will immediately begin a process of consultation with relevant stakeholders on a proposal that by the end of May, most of the country be placed on alert level 3, but that those parts of the country with the highest rates of infection remain on level 4,” he said.

The president said that hotspot areas with high infection rates will remain under level 4.

Under current level 3 proposals, off-premises consumption of alcohol will be allowed, subject to limited hours (Mon-Wed 08h00 – 12h00), and subject to an approved industry plan on social distance and quantitative restrictions.

Sean Robinson, spokesperson for the LTASA warned that the limited trading hours under level 3 would lead to excessive queuing, making social distancing almost impossible.

He said that the government’s proposed hours will result in anxiety, frustration and even possible violence and looting.

The LTASA said that the current devastating reality is that thousands of independently owned liquor stores face imminent financial ruin as the ban of the sale of alcohol continues.

“Liquor stock worth tens of millions of rands is close to reaching its expiry date and will result in the demise of thousands of off-consumption liquor stores.”

Our member’s businesses are mostly SME’s and have been closed since lockdown (27 March 2020). Without any sales and ongoing expenses including salaries, wages, rent, insurance, security, IT charges and finance costs, our members’ face crippling damage to cashflow which is simply not sustainable,” it said.

Many employees will not be paid at the end of May 2020 and face imminent retrenchment, the association said. “Many of our members have suffered from break-ins, theft and looting and the risk thereof increases daily.”

“In summary, many of our member’s liquor stores are suffering severe short-term economic stress and are on the verge of collapse,” the LTASA said.

The group said that its members cannot wait until alert level 3 to trade, “It will be too late”.

Retail sale of liquor via off-consumption liquor stores

The association called for the off-consumption sale of liquor during alert level 4 under the following conditions:

Condition 1:  Trading Hours

Proposed Trading Hours:

Mon- Fri: 09h00 – 18h00

Saturday: 09h00 – 16h00

Sundays & Public holidays: closed

These proposed hours will spread demand and enable retailers to cope whilst ensuring employees and customers adhere to safety protocols and Provide sufficient time, before and after closing, to prepare and sanitise stores for trade.

It will also allow consumers to shop after work, and prevent staff from having to commute during the busiest times of the day.

Condition 2: Restriction on quantity sold per transaction

Quantity restrictions should be:

  • Simple to communicate to consumers and staff;
  • Practical to enforce;
  • Low enough to mitigate against resale;
  • High enough to limit frequent travel to liquor outlets and prevent ‘’panic buying’’;
  • Enable sufficient legal alcohol availability to reduce the market for illicit trade.

Recommended restrictions per sale

A consumer can purchase any 5 items of liquor, where 1 item is:

  • 1 tray of beer or Ready to Drink convenience packs (24 cans or bottles – non-returnable);
  • 1 crate of beer or ready-to-drink large packs (12 bottles – returnable);
  • 1 box of wine or sparkling wine (6 bottles);
  • 1 unit of box wine (1 box);
  • 1 bottle of spirits or liqueur or fortified wine (1 bottle).
  • A consumer can mix and match any combination of the above but may not buy more than 5 items in total.

Condition 3: Strict adherence to all Covid-19 health and safety protocols

“The submission document details all the relevant practical measures and considerations that our members will adhere to in order to limit the risk of transmission of Covid-19 in our stores and workplaces,” the LTASA said.

Condition 4: Manage the initial surge in demand

Employees to be allowed to start work in retail liquor stores 4 days before opening to the public.

This will enable staff to put all relevant safety measures in place before opening, the LTASA said.

Week 1 of opening:

  • Every customer to present ID for security to check;
  • Surnames A – M: Allowed to shop first Mon & Wed;
  • Surnames N – Z: Allowed to shop first Tues & Thurs;
  • Everyone: Allowed to shop Fri and Saturday;
  • Additional security to check IDs, allow access and manage queuing;
  • Full staff complement (excluding staff over 60 years old and those with Covid-19 comorbidities) to manage the initial surge in demand. Reduce thereafter.
  • Wholesale sale of liquor by redistributors with NLA redistribution licenses

Permit the sale and distribution of liquor products to off-consumption licensed outlets only by wholesale redistributors with NLA distribution licenses during Alert Level 4 under the following conditions:

  • Sale (distribution or call & collect) to licensed off-consumption outlets only;
  • No reps to call on customers;
  • No supply to on-consumption outlets;
  • Restrict the hours of sale as per retail hours above.

“We are fully committed to joining our Government in the fight against the spread of COVID -19 and look forward to engaging with you to help save lives and save our businesses,” the LTASA said.