Irresponsible liquor traders face huge fines

The gloves are off in the fight against irresponsible liquor trading.

On Wednesday May 31, government approved the Western Cape Liquor Regulations, which, among other things, enables authorities to impose exorbitant fines for irresponsible liquor trading in the name of reducing crime, with government saying it believed the liquor industry must help pay for the problems it caused.

The new regulations, which will take effect from Saturday July 1, pertain to the Western Cape Liquor Act, 2008, as amended by the Western Cape Liquor Amendment Act 2015, and will see the powers of the provincial liquor authority being beefed up.

While small liquor business owners operating in the townships, have expressed shock at the new developments, they said they would meet to discuss the regulations before commenting to the media.

The Western Cape Liquor Traders’ deputy chairperson Keith Ntoyi said after hearing about the new developments, his organisation had decided to convene a meeting with all liquor sellers before officially taking a stand on the matter.

“We have seen and heard about the new development but at the moment we are trying to wrap our heads around it. But our stance on this has been that, it should not be about liquor only. There are jobs on the line. There are families that will go home hungry. The government should give us another alternative if it believes we are misbehaving,” he said

He added that the same regulations should apply to liquor manufacturers, chain stores and small businesses.

“The key thing here is money (and) where it is going. But as I have said, we will have to speak to our members before we act on this. We also urge all those who sell (liquor), to join us on this issue,” he said.

Ewald Botha, the spokesman for Community Safety MEC Dan Plato, said the implementation of the regulations would play a major role in the Alcohol Harms Reduction Game Changer initiative in the Western Cape, led by the Department of Community Safety.

He said traders would have to familiarise themselves with the regulations because they would affect them.

“They have to know ins and outs of the regulations or face the consequences. Any liquor license holder will have to allow inspectors in their premises. People will have to get in line with the law. If you do not, it can become costly,” he warned.

He denied that the aim was kill businesses. Instead, he said, the aim was to crack down on liquor traders who were breaking law.

Amendments to the regulations include the increase of the maximum penalty for non-compliance that the Liquor Licensing Tribunal may issue, from
R20 000 to R100 000; and all liquor inspectors are now compelled to issue notices of non-compliance to all illegal outlets. Inspectors are further compelled to issue administrative notices if these premises are not fully licenced.

Previously liquor inspectors only inspected licence holders and law enforcement dealt with the illegal outlets.

The new regulations now place a responsibility on liquor inspectors to visit all premises or vehicles where reasonable suspicion exists that liquor is being stored, conveyed or sold contrary to the provisions of the Liquor Act.

Revenue will be reinvested into alcohol harms reduction efforts in the province, as well as community-based structures such as the neighbourhood watches and youth development programmes.