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Liquor proposal backlash

“Restricted liquor trading hours will kill tourism in Hermanus and single-handedly shut down the town.”

These strong words are the sentiments of Sam Seal, owner of Bojangles Bar in Hermanus CBD, in response to a proposal from the Overstrand Municipality to restrict liquor trading hours.

Strong opposition has surfaced since the municipality announced its proposal to prohibit sales at liquor stores on Sundays and restrict on-consumption sales at bars and clubs until midnight.

A petition to object to the proposed new liquor trading hours by-law was circulated on Tuesday 18 February, and by Wednesday morning it had more than 320 signatures.

The petition reads: “There is no scientific evidence we can find that confirms a direct relationship between reduced trading hours and reduced consumption. Rather, restrictions generally encourage increased consumption of a particular commodity, in this case alcohol.” The petition goes on to argue that the Overstrand Municipality should rather focus on an education campaign for responsible use of alcohol.

Carolyn Martin of Creation Wines, who initiated the petition, says the municipality did not do its homework before compiling the proposal. “It will have an impact on my business during the winter months,” she said. “We promote responsible drinking and do lots of work in alcohol education. This by-law will promote more binge drinking, and won’t have any effect on informal liquor traders who don’t have liquor licences.”

Seal says people come to Hermanus to relax and have fun, and if all the pubs close their doors at midnight then these holidaymakers will go and look for the party somewhere else, in a different town.

Mike Niemand of Hoofpad Pub and Grill in Kleinmond says if the by-law were to become a reality he would instantly lose a quarter of his turnover. He believes illegal shebeens will use this new by-law to profit on Sundays until after midnight.

“I have been in the industry for the last 23 years and the liquor law has always been very strict,” he said. “As a business owner one doesn’t want to lose one’s liquor licence, so one abides by the rules.”

Owners of various restaurants, pubs, bars and liquor shops will meet on Thursday (20 February) in Kleinmond to discuss the way forward. “We are not going to lie down and allow our businesses to suffer,” added Niemand.

There is also scepticism about whether the proposed changes will have their desired outcome. In a press release, the Overstrand Municipality states the proposed changes can be seen as an attempt to clamp down on establishments that sell liquor illegally or without licences.

“It also attempts to lessen liquor abuse, hooliganism, noise pollution and public disturbances.”

Pastor Mario Marchio of Bosko Ministries believes that forbidding alcohol sales on Sunday will not stop alcohol abuse. He said: “I am in favour of the new by-law, but it comes with reservations. The by-law won’t stop alcohol usage; it will just make it worse, because people will double-up on Saturday to have enough for Sunday.”

Not everyone is opposed to the proposal, though. Cassie Carstens of Onrus Liquors sees the new by-law as a good thing.

“This by-law will give me more time with my family,” she says. “It will also mean that less people will have hangovers and in turn function better at work.”

Overstrand Municipality has urged residents to comment on the proposed changes by Monday 23 March.

The proposed by-law can be obtained, during office hours, from the offices of the Area Managers of Gansbaai, Stanford, Hermanus and Kleinmond, from all public libraries of the Overstrand, and the Corporate Head Office of the municipality in Hermanus as well as the official website, www.overstrand.gov.za.

The petition can also be signed on the Avaaz.org site.

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