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

Business Insider SA
Not for sale.
  • Alcohol is likely to be on sale again – in parts of South Africa – from June, if President Cyril Ramaphosa's current expectations are met.
  • Independent liquor stores are worried about a surge of customers after two months of booze lockdown, and have asked for changes in the draft plan for Level 3 to make things safer.
  • They want longer trading hours, but with initial limits on how much each customer can buy, such as 120 beers per person per day.
  • They also propose spreading the load by surname – which would mean people whose surnames begin with N to Z may have to wait an extra day for their wine and whiskey.
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Come June much of South Africa may be able to buy alcoholic drinks again. But under a proposal from a group of independent liquor stores, your surname may determine whether you need to wait an extra day for yours.

Consultation is now underway with a view to move much of South Africa – outside of coronavirus hotspots – to Alert Level 3 by the end of May, President Cyril Ramaphosa said in an address on Wednesday night.

Under South Africa's draft system of alert levels, limited booze sales are allowed under Level 3.

But opening up alcohol sales after what will be more than two months of lockdown is potentially dangerous, a newly-formed group for independent liquor outlets has warned, and managing the initial surge of customers may require limits both on quantity and on who may shop when.

In a submission to the government, the Liquor Traders Association of South Africa (LTASA) proposes opening up the allowed trading hours for bottle stores, which in the draft strategy are limited to Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday mornings until noon only.

Those hours "will inevitably create a pressure-cooker situation where customers will stand in massive queues in the streets, and will boil over into frustration and even possible violence and looting when PM arrives and they have not even entered the premises yet," the LTASA warns.

Plus, it says, excluding lunch hours and after-work hours means "customers will have to take off work to queue".

Instead it would like to see trading hours from 09:00 to 18:00 on weekdays, plus 09:00 to 16:00 on Saturdays.

"This will also reduce congestion and the potential associated risks to employee and customer safety," the organisation says. "This would also provide adequate time for employees to receive stock, repack shelves, and receive and prepare call and collect orders whilst also attending to the required health and safety protocols."

120 cans of beer per person – and your surname determines when you can buy.

South African consumers can, under normal circumstances, buy a great deal of booze at a time, in order to cater for weddings or other parties. With such events still banned, limits on booze can be set lower, the LTASA says, but restrictions should seek a balance of people going back to liquor stores often to restock, and having so much booze that they share.

The organisation has recommend limits, under Level 3, that would mean each customer could buy only a maximum per day of:

  • 120 cans of beer, or 60 returnable bottles of beer
  • 30 bottles of wine
  • 5 boxed-wine boxes
  • 5 bottles of spirits or liqueur.

Or, if they were to buy mixed booze, the plan would limit customers to five items, where one item is a tray or crate of beer, a box of wine, or a bottle of spirits or liqueur.

That is not enough to manage the first-week surge though, the bottle stores argue. To do that they propose letting everyone buy booze on Fridays and Saturdays, but limiting customers by surname the rest of the week.

Under that proposal, people with surnames starting with A through M will be allowed into stores on Mondays and Wednesdays, while those with surnames starting with N through Z will be allowed to buy on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

See also: Govt has changed the rules about moving house

1 June falls on a Monday – which could exclude the N to Z group on the first day that alcohol sales open again.

"The idea is to get half of the population visiting some days, and the other half other days," says association spokesperson Sean Robinson.

"We're not sure this is totally practical of easily implementable, but we need something, we're trying to assist government in managing the surge."

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