Own goal

If this interpretation of the new Cape Town Liquor By-law is accurate – and there’s no suggestion that it isn’t – then it’s an absolutely massive own goal by our supposedly liberal DA city council.

  • No alcohol can be sold for off-consumption on Sundays, except for wineries.
  • No alcohol can be sold for off-consumption after 6pm on weekdays.
  • No sale of more than 150 litres of alcohol to any one person unless they have a liquor licence or special permission from the Chairman of the Liquor Board.
  • No-one may keep more than 150 litres of wine in their home without a liquor licence.
  • No drinking alcohol in vehicles.
  • No drinking at school functions ever. This applies even if the function is held away from school grounds and on a licenced premises.

For starters, I do agree with the no drinking in vehicles and the school function thing makes some degree of sense on a basic level. But that’s where my support for this ends.

There’s absolutely no question that Cape Town – as with the rest of South Africa – has a huge problem with alcohol. But I fail to see how this new bylaw will help to solve that. Illegal shebeens currently operate with impunity across the city; why will this bylaw prevent them from continuing to do so, with such limited enforcement of the laws that already exist?

The nod to Sundays as being somehow special is backward and unnecessary. Again, exactly how that assists with reducing alcohol abuse is beyond me. Or are we planning on baby steps here – to reduce problem drinking by 1/7th? Is that enough?

And then the whole 150 litres issues. No buying for big parties and even if you could, no taking it home. No wine collections of over 200 bottles – if you have one, you will be breaking the law in a couple of weeks. Are they really going to do dawn raids on posh houses that they suspect may have a wine cellar? It’s pathetic.

And this is just on off sales. The implications for restaurants and bars – and with them, Cape Town’s vital tourist industry – are even more worrying.

I have nothing but contempt for these new regulations. They are short sighted and unhelpful and they risk alienating a huge proportion of the voting public. Without proper enforcement, any law is useless anyway and as we’ve point out with the traffic, there really is no enforcement of our laws here. So what’s the point?

The one thing with our city council is that they do have a history of actually listening to public opinion, so maybe there is some hope that the outcry that this stupid bylaw generates will result in it being changed to something more sensible in the future.
But in the meantime, on the 1st April, we in Cape Town will be living in a beautiful, but backward city. And that’s very sad.