• Alcohol sales are due to open on Monday, under Alert Level 3 – and there is likely to be a rush on bottle stores by booze-starved South Africans.
  • Tavern owners are arguing they can safely offer alcoholic drinks for sale, for off-site consumption, using an online platform.
  • This is how their click-and-collect model for booze would work, if government were to accept the proposal.
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Unless things change, quickly and dramatically, South Africans will be able to legally buy alcoholic drinks again on Monday, for the first time since lockdown.

That is likely to cause something of a rush on bottle stores, with the implications of crowds – and a lack of physical distancing.

When a similar booze lockdown ended in India earlier this month, hundreds of people queued up at stores. Police reportedly charged one group of hopeful buyers with batons to disperse them, while some liquor stores were closed again due to "unruly" crowds.

The South African government has said nothing whatsoever on how such events may be prevented in South Africa, other than making stores responsible for managing queues.

The liquor industry, though, has several ideas it is lobbying the government to adopt, so far without evident success.

Under one plan, liquor store customers would be assigned days of the week they may visit based on their surnames.

See also: If your surname starts with N or later, you may have to wait an extra day to buy booze

Another plan would see taverns open to sell takeaways, rather than remain closed entirely.

The SA liquor industry says there are some 34,500 taverns that could safely be brought in to sell booze, so preventing crowding at other outlets and making for shorter trips by buyers.

Industry organisations have proposed a "click-and-collect" scheme for taverns, to ensure physical distancing. This is how it would work, according to a representation released by manufacturer Distell this week.

(Via Distell)

Customers would order via an app, or SMS system, using the IDs to register. Each order would be assigned a collection time, and customers would need to bring their IDs along to prove to security guards that they are eligible for pickup during a specific slot.

Taverns, say proponents of the plan, could set up multiple collection points at a single site, spreading these outdoors where space allows, so further preventing crowding – and potential looting.

The department of trade, industry, and competition was not immediately available to say which, if any, such plans are under consideration.

A briefing on Alert Level 3 regulations, originally scheduled for Tuesday, was later postponed to Wednesday.

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