Seeking a drop of comfort

Kabelo Adamson

Liquor industry want bars to operate as off-consumption outlets

On Friday 27 March, a week before the country went into lockdown, government indefinitely suspended the sale of alcohol in Botswana.

Not a drop has been sold, legally, since.

Fast-forward to this Monday and President Mokgweetsi Masisi announced the 28-day lockdown, originally set to end on Friday, would be increased by three weeks, albeit with varying restrictions.

Last week, pre-empting Masisi’s announcement, the Botswana Alcohol Industry Association (BAIA) proposed that if the initial lockdown is extended, the sale of liquor should be permitted in off-consumption sales outlets.

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They also suggested that, where possible, online platforms be made available to limit the travel of consumers.

To that end, BAIA Chairman, Mothusi Molokomme recommended that bars be granted special dispensation to operate as off-consumption outlets subject to social distancing requirements.

“This would also ensure that these outlets do not experience further negative economic impact with many of these outlets already under financial distress due to the 30-day extreme social distancing period,” noted Molokomme.

The association proposed that outlets should be allowed to open from 1000hrs to 1800hrs on all weekdays.

“It is our view that a compression of trading hours encourages crowding which puts social distancing at risk. Hence our proposal to include trading hours of 1000hrs – 1400hrs on Saturday coupled with no trading on Sunday and Public Holidays,” continued the association chair.

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Seeking a drop of comfort
SUSPENDED: Liquor on display

In order to reduce density, Molokomme says the number of customers allowed in an off-consumption liquor outlet will be a maximum of one person per square metre.

He urged government to consider their proposal and give it the ‘urgent attention and seriousness’ it deserves.

“We too believe in the sustainability of this country and would like to partner with government in making this a reality,” said Molokomme, adding that as the industry, they are confident the proposals are practical.

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As it currently stands, the sale of alcohol will remain illegal during the State of Emergency, set to last until October.

Meanwhile the ban on alcohol has given birth to an underground trade, with beer being sold for three, often four times the normal trading price.

Those caught selling face a possible six-month prison term or a fine of up to P5, 000 or even both.

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