Restaurants back court challenge against South Africa’s alcohol restrictions

 ·7 Jul 2021

The Restaurant Association of South Africa (RASA) is backing a legal challenge against South Africa’s adjusted level 4 lockdown restrictions, which it says have hammered the industry.

The court challenge is being brought by South Africa Breweries (SAB), with the group challenging the country’s latest alcohol ban on administrative law grounds.

RASA said that it ‘wholeheartedly’ supports the court action and said it is seeking immediate relief on the liquor restrictions put onto the restaurant industry.

“RASA is calling for an immediate reversal of the level 4 lockdown restrictions and a proper representation on the ministerial portfolio for tourism and hospitality so that the restaurant industry can be adequately represented,” it said.

The association has also begun surveying its members, with much of the focus on how much longer restaurants can continue to operate under the strict curfew and alcohol restrictions.

SAB said it has been left with no other choice but to defend its rights and protect its business, and the group has already imposed an investment freeze of around R5 billion following the previous alcohol bans.

“SAB regrets the government’s unfortunate decision to ban the sale of all alcohol for the fourth time in the last 18 months. SAB is deeply concerned by the continued discrimination of the legal alcohol trade, resulting in a burgeoning illicit industry.”

The new ban had been implemented at a time when the industry was gearing itself for future stability and was ready to play its part in the country’s economic recovery, it said.

“SAB believes it is left with no other alternative but to defend its rights and take legal action to protect its business and urgently overturn this decision.”

A separate case is being brought by Vinpro, a non-profit company that represents 3,500 South African wine producers. Initially set to be heard on Wednesday (7 July) a lack of available judges led to the matter being postponed.

Vinpro is seeing an urgent interdict to the lockdown restrictions, with its main case set to be heard in August.

“The latest ban of two weeks that has now been imposed follows on 19 weeks of revenue loss over the past 15 months, which has had a devastating effect on the wine and tourism sector that employs more than 269,000 people,” said Rico Basson, Vinpro managing director.

“A large number of our wine producers and wineries are small – more than 80% of the 529 wineries are small and medium enterprises and are reliant on direct sales to customers.

“Although wine exports may continue, the industry exports less than 50% of annual production, with the other half sold on home soil. With no financial support from the government for these businesses, their prospects, and that of employees, are extremely bleak.”

Read: Unions warn that schools are not ready to reopen in South Africa: report

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