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Tavern owners count their losses

Malome Sebaka, a tavern owner, says he made less money than usual.
Malome Sebaka, a tavern owner, says he made less money than usual.

While wholesale retailers made a killing in the first week of liquor sales open again with people buying in bulk, for business owners in the townships it was a tough one.

Shebeens, restaurants and taverns around Soweto have blamed the limited time of operation, saying it has had a huge impact on their businesses.

Dumile Badela of Just Badela, a restaurant on Vilakazi Street, Orlando West, said business was bad.

Badela said the government should give retailers different days to operate to those of restaurants and shebeens.

"We did not make money at all [last week]. Perhaps, because this is a new thing [of buying and it was the first week. The government should have reserved Monday to Thursday liquor sales to big retails, and for liquor traders in the townships to open Friday to Sunday.

"Township residents do not have time to go to Makro during the week, but come weekend, they have time and can get their booze in their neighborhood.

"What they have done they have given Makro, Tops and Pick n Pay more business than people like us in the townships. They [government] just empowered white businesses," Badela said.

Malome Sebaka, 42, who has a tavern in Klipspruit, said it would take a long time for him to recover from the two months of business inactivity.

Ponono Fakude, a tavern owner in Riverlea, says there was a big rush late Thursday as people came in to stock up for the weekend.
Ponono Fakude, a tavern owner in Riverlea, says there was a big rush late Thursday as people came in to stock up for the weekend.

"Before this pandemic, I used to make about R30,000 a week. I managed to make R6,000 this [past] week. You can see that the difference is high and it's crippling," Sebaka said.

"It was a horrible and painful period because I started using the money that was allocated for my business. I have not been able to replace it and it's going to take a while before I can."

His sentiments were echoed by Lindiwe Ndaba, 59, who complained about the hours allocated to liquor trade.

"I am happy that I can trade again. I have been running this business for years so it's all I know. But the hours and days that have been allocated to us make it difficult to make any form of profit. I made about R2,000 this week which is something I make on a peak day [at weekends]," she said.

Pununu Fakude, who owns Joyce Inn Tavern in Riverlea, also said the trading hours were bad for business.

Fakude, who took over the running of the place from her mother in 2011, said the right time to make money when selling liquor was weekends.

"I always sell more liquor and make my profit on weekends rather than during the week because people enjoy drinking when they are not going to work.

"During the week it's difficult because people are going to work and when they return around 6pm, we are already closed," Fakude lamented.

"But I did experience a bit of rush just before I closed on Thursday with people coming to buy more drinks, in cases, for the weekend.

"We understand that it is because of the national lockdown's restrictions on alcohol.

"Again, what I made this week is better than not opening at all."

While some appreciate the opportunity to open for business again after two months closure due to the government's Covid-19 lockdown, others are struggling to reopen.

Absalome Kunene, 80, who runs a tavern in Dlamini, said the lockdown period has run his business into the ground after thugs broke into his establishment and made off with all his stock.

"I see everyone opening up and being able to go on with their business. I haven't been so lucky because R91,000 worth of my stock was stolen in the first two weeks of the lockdown," Kunene said.

"I don't know if I'll be able to open again because that's all the stock I had. I didn't have an income during the past two months and I thought I would be able to make a little bit of a profit but that's not the case."

His tavern has been in operation for 10 years and he said his problems were compounded after he defaulted on his insurance.

"I had not paid my insurance for three months, so when I went to claim they told me they would not pay for it."

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