Fight against liquor by-law continues

THE Mitchells Plain Liquor Traders Association is to ask the Supreme Court of Appeal for leave to appeal after losing its fight to reinstate longer trading hours.

BeerFridgeInsideTraders are losing “huge income” under the by-law, which limits hours to 6pm on weekdays and bars Sunday trade in the absence of a special licence, says Elton Oosthuizen, chairman of the association, which represents about 25 legal off-consumption traders in Mitchells Plain, Atlantis, Retreat and other areas. Most of their customers came home after 6pm, he said, and traders could not afford the new licence application fee of R4 000.

Last month, the Western Cape High Court dismissed the association’s arguments that sections of the Western Cape Liquor Act were in conflict with the constitution and that the by-law unfairly discriminated against off-consumption liquor outlets in predominantly black and coloured residential areas.

Before the by-law came into effect, liquor sales could continue after 6pm on weekdays and take place on Sundays, depending on a trader’s licence.

Under the new by-law, retailers have to apply for a licence to trade later than 6pm and on Sundays.

“It costs about R4 000 to apply for this and there is no guarantee that we will be granted this licence,” Oosthuizen said.

“In 2004 we paid R1 000 for extended hours. At that time we could trade until 8pm or 9pm.

“We can’t afford the new fees for a licence to trade later than 6pm. We are already suffering to make business. Our livelihoods are at stake here.”

The shorter hours meant “a massive loss of income for us as liquor traders. People do not buy alcohol during the day. Most of our customers work and get home during the week after 6pm”.

Trader Jessie Jonathan said: “Under these strict hours we must do our business. This is a slap in our face.”

Another trader, who asked not be named, said: “All these rules and regulations came in when the DA took over the Western Cape. While under the ANC’s control we could trade openly without fearing the law.”

Bronwynne Jooste, spokeswoman for Economic Opportunities MEC Alan Winde, said the provincial government intended to oppose the application to appeal.

“The positives of the alcohol industry are that entrepreneurship flourishes and jobs are being created. But one third of the national and provincial health budgets are spent on the burden of disease created by alcohol. In the Western Cape about 300 people a year die of alcohol-related (accident) injuries. These sort of deaths cost the provincial government R6.5 billion a year and it is being driven by irresponsible traders.”

The respondents in the original court action included Premier Helen Zille, the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape Liquor Authority.