No more happy hour? You can expect pricier booze, fewer specials at your local bar, tavern

Business Insider SA
Glass of beer on the bar counter.
Glass of beer on the bar counter (Getty).

  • Some specials, including happy hour, might fall away as bars and taverns open until these small businesses get back on their feet. 
  • Bars concede that higher prices may send their customers off to liquor stores instead – but may be increasing prices anyway.
  • Some venues just can't open with a 22:00 curfew and a limit of 50 people on the premises, so they'll be waiting to see what Level 1 may bring.
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Bars may legally open for business as of Tuesday night, but under conditions – both legal and economic – that some say just aren't viable for them.

And happy hour may be a thing of the past.

Under Level 2 rules, bars and taverns may operate until the 22:00 curfew every night, although their staff also need to get home before that deadline, affecting actual closing times.

They may also have only 50 people on their premises at any time. 

For some, that just won't work.

"With the restriction of 50 people and trading times restricted to 22:00, that doesn't fit within our business model," said Ryan James, owner of Burlesque Cocktail Bar in Durban.

"We normally trade between 20:00 until 02:00, and we hold about 400 people as we are also a live entertainment venue. Our staff alone make up 30 out of that 50 so we can't have just 20 people come in."

Others are grappling with cashflow issues, and how to get back to profitable trade.

Some businesses, such as Striped Horse Bar and Grill in Cape Town, say at least some of their specials will fall away – including happy hour – while others such as Sam Nkuna’s tavern in Springs are planning on increasing prices.

But there are limits to how much they can charge customers in order to get out of the red.

“Bottle stores are open so you can’t charge heavy prices when you can go to the bottle store and get it at a cheaper price,” said a manager at one Cape Town bar. 

Agnes Makena, owner of Diphororo Tavern in Winnie Mandela, Tembisa, said businesses like hers simply don't have money, having burnt through available cash during lockdown. She would like to see major suppliers offer advances, enough to get their trade flowing again.

Those that have stock may not be able to sell all of it.

“There is nothing we can do with the expired stock that we have. Even if we try to return to the supplier, they won’t allow it back because we bought it a long time ago,” said Nkuna.

Then there are the simple practical issues of Level 2, such as sticking to that 50-people rule.

“The biggest change will be capacity more than anything, because we can’t fill it up to what we normally used to. Controlling capacity is going to be our biggest issue,” one bar owner said.  

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