Let restaurants outside 'alcohol-related trauma hotspots' sell booze, Rasa suggests

Wendy Knowler Consumer journalist
The restaurant association has compiled proposals to help restaurants survive the lockdown. One proposal is to limit customers to two drinks per main meal served.
The restaurant association has compiled proposals to help restaurants survive the lockdown. One proposal is to limit customers to two drinks per main meal served.
Image: Sunday Times/Daniel Born

The restaurant industry is pleading with the presidency to allow restaurants operating “beyond alcohol-related trauma hotspots” to sell alcohol to customers, provided they order a main meal.

“This would effectively prevent the restaurant turning into a bar,” a firm of attorneys acting for the Restaurant Association of SA (Rasa) said in a letter addressed to the office of the president on Monday.

Rasa argued that just as President Cyril Ramaphosa said the government would adopt a “differentiated approach” to deal with areas with far higher levels of Covid-19 infection and transmission — coronavirus hotspots — so the statistics relating to alcohol-related trauma should be used to regulate the sale and distribution of alcohol in restaurants.

The restaurant industry was being “punished” because of the actions of “a few South Africans who are unable to control themselves around alcohol”, Rasa said.

The association proposed that:

  • The national coronavirus command council allows the sale and distribution of alcohol countrywide for all restaurants with a valid liquor licence;
  • In areas identified as hotspots for alcohol-related trauma, “a higher level of restriction is imposed and the ban reinstated”;
  • No more than two drinks be sold per main meal; and
  • While the lockdown is in effect, the legal drink driving limit be reduced to zero.

Rasa stressed these were “by no means an exhaustive list of regulations and restrictions which can be imposed to regulate the sale and distribution of alcohol by restaurants”, and invited the government’s engagement in “generating a collaborative effort in restoring the industry”.

“During the lockdown, restauranteurs have put their own livelihoods behind the needs of the country and shut their doors when told to,” Rasa said. “They then had to jump through various hoops to ensure compliance with the regulations and restrictions to reopen, and now are asked to endure even more.”

This is a reference to the immediate suspension of all sales and distribution of alcohol and the 9pm to 4am curfew announced by Ramaphosa on  July 12.

“All this while they are forced to watch as other industries are opened and receive relief packages to aid the rebirth of that industry. Rasa implores the presidency to give serious consideration to this proposal so the industry can at this point attempt to heal.”

The association has orchestrated a “million seats on the streets” protest on Wednesday at eateries, coffee shops and takeaway establishments across the country to highlight the massive impact lockdown regulations have had on the industry.

Empty tables and chairs will be used to block roads outside the eateries between noon and 2pm.

GET IN TOUCH: You can contact Wendy Knowler for advice with your consumer issues via e-mail: consumer@knowler.co.za or on Twitter: @wendyknowler

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