South African on-trade workers protest alcohol sales ban

Restaurant and winery workers across South Africa turned out in force to put pressure on the government to allow alcohol sales for sit-down venues.

(Photo: Alfred Thorpe from

The protesters have also called on a current curfew to be pushed back from 9pm to 10pm, and to resolve delays in relief payouts that have been promised by the government.

Protesters took to the streets on Wednesday 22 July with placards that showed how many people worked in their business, and now risk losing their jobs due to the country’s extended lockdown, with the slogan #Jobssavelives.

Ross Sleet, owner of Rascallion Wines, was one of the many wine producers joining the protests in Stellenboch.

“We view the value chain of restauranteurs as part of our industry,” Sleet told the drinks business, “and that they can’t sell our product affects us as much as they are affected.”

Addressing the nation on 12 July, President Cyril Ramaphosa said domestic alcohol sales would once again be banned in order to free-up hospital beds occupied by those suffering from alcohol-related traumas. There is also a night-time curfew between the hours of 9pm and 4am, and masks must be worn at all times while in public places.

A spokesperson for the country’s Restaurant Collective told South Africa’s Sunday Times: “People are fed up and feel they have to do something. Things are going badly because people are not yet excited to go out. Unemployment means a lot of the population cannot afford restaurants. There is no support to help the industry. The sit-down restaurants are worst affected. A lot of what’s going on is no-one’s fault.”

The spokesperson added that 40% of restaurants have not received any form of government loan or support.

It has been reported that during the nine-week lockdown, the South African alcohol industry has lost R18 billion in revenue (£852.8 million) and R3.4 billion (£142.1m) in excise tax. The loss of excise tax is a direct result of increasing sales of illegal alcohol products which don’t pay taxes.

Sleet said navigating lockdown, being unable to sell wine domestically and applying for government relief packages and getting nowhere has been “challenging, to put it nicely”.

“If you take a sane rational view of why alcohol has been banned we completely understand it…but it’s a sledgehammer to crack a walnut.”

(Photo: Alfred Thorpe from

“Yes it’s some pressure taken off the health service and there are obviously issues around alcohol, but the lack of consultation it just seems a little but heavy-handed and misguided.”

Some protesters laid out tables to demonstrate the empty seats in South Africa’s restaurants, as well as enable social distancing during the day.

(Photo: Alfred Thorpe from

Sleet said that more than one million jobs could be on the line thanks to the lockdown rules.

“Look at chefs, waiters, parking attendants, cellar workers, courier companies. To put a million jobs at risk let alone the risk it’s having on the Fiscus and tax not being collected, it doesn’t seem to be a well thought out strategy.”

While domestic sales and drinking in restaurants is forbidden wineries are still able to export. Industry leaders have called on people to support South Africa’s producers and drink their wine, as part of a social media campaign called #drinksouthafrican.

But Sleet said that isn’t so easy for everyone.

“It would be nice if we could click our fingers and export, but saying you can export and ability to do so are two different things.”

“We have a small order going to Japan, but it’s taken four weeks to just get that order onto a boat.”


4 Responses to “South African on-trade workers protest alcohol sales ban”

  1. Pet Ryf says:

    Its ridiculous. We need to make a living

  2. Marena says:

    It is beyond rediculous banning alcohol and tobacco sales! It seems that creating poverty is more important than a stronger economy..

  3. Shawne Kumm says:

    I really feel for all of those in the restaurant, liquor and tabacco industries who are all sitting at home with no income because of President Ramaphosa and his so called colleagues namely Dlamini Zuma and Beki Cele who all have a one track mind. There is some much Crime in this country and the only thing that worries them is the booze and cigarettes that people are buying.
    Ramaphosa speaks about high unemployment is in this country yet he is the one who is putting everyone out of a job.
    He and his cadres are the sole ones to blame for all that is going on.
    All these poor people have no ways of feeding their family because it said that social distancing must be adhered too, but how do you justify the fact that Ramaphosa allows taxis to be 100 percent capacity and also funerals can be attended.
    Yet in the restaurant industries when you go for a sit down meal the tables are already spaces out and this has been happening for years before the pandemic even started.
    So where is the logic in that. I have pics which have been taken at Cambridge Post Office in East London I. The Eastern Cape which clearly shows that his own nation is not adhearing to rules and regulations of Lockdown yet nothing gets done, but he has the audacity to close bottles stores, restaurants and tabacco industries down.
    I am ashamed to call my self a South African and I pray to GOD that the ANC will never exist after the pandemic for doing what they did. As I see it the whole ANC government deserves to be sitting on the streets without money or food to show them what it feels like to have your lively hood and dignity ripped away from a President who clearly does not give a damn about the people in his country.
    Shame on you Mr president, Dlamini Zuma Beki Cele and colleagues you all disgust me.

  4. Thys says:

    Hunger has killed almost 4 million people since 1 Jan 2020 and corona only 648000 since 1 Jan 2020, so what is more important here? I will rather live with corona and have the word economy running at full capacity, than sit at home hiding from a virus that will catch up to you in anycase. Im a father with 2kids and a strong beautiful woman for a wife and if they keep on banning stuff, that makes this horrible world just a bit more bare able we will all soon find ourself doing things we thought we’ d never do just to survive and be able to feed our children. This banana republic of ours are no longer worried what will be left to go back to once this joke of a lockdown is lifted. They will be so happy and proud the day they say you can now open your business again “eish Im so happy to say” and then they will see that there’s nothing left to open. Maybe they should take all the billions they have borrowed and stolen since the start of the “lockdowns” and give each one of us R1M, so we can pay our kreditors that for some reason does not undserstand that we are no longer making money.

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