Where’s liquor board in our time of need, ask tavern owners
Tavern owners have raised the alarm over the devastating effects on their businesses of the prolonged lockdown, saying the liquor board has failed them in their hour of need.
About 20 owners gathered at Bra Day’s Tavern in Zwide on Tuesday, saying though they supported the restrictions to curb Covid-19, their businesses were battling to survive after being shut for almost two months.
The owners vented their frustration over what they described as a lack of support from the board — to which they pay licence fees — and the various liquor associations.
“We are really suffering but every year we pay big money to the liquor board, and now that we need them more than ever, they are nowhere to be found,” Bra Day’s owner David Ntakwetu, 67, said.
Lunga Magxaka, of Lunga General Jazz Cafe in Zwide, said: “The lockdown has opened [our] eyes and exposed how we are disregarded by the government.
“We have to make ways to engage with the liquor board and other stakeholders to pave the way [for] how we can also receive support from the government.”
Eastern Cape Liquor Board spokesperson Mgwebi Msiya said the board had no mandate to provide relief funding and the tavern owners were welcome to apply to the Small Business Relief Fund for assistance.
The fund is an initiative of the department of small business development and disburses loans to operators in the sector.
“We must make it abundantly clear that the mandate of the Eastern Cape Liquor Board is exclusively to regulate [the] liquor industry in the province.”
He said the board had sourced relevant information on how the traders could access relief funding under the ambit of the department of labour.
Department spokesperson Teboho Thejane said all employers and employees who were contributing towards the UIF were eligible to apply for relief under the Covid-19 Temporary Employer Relief Scheme.
But Zonwabele Solwandle, 55, owner of Chief Ngqoko Tavern in New Brighton, said most tavern owners were not paying UIF, and might have to lay off staff.
“We pay licence fees to the liquor board, while we don’t contribute any UIF.
“In these trying times it would make a huge difference if our representatives on the national level came up with ways of addressing our issues and compensate as they can so we can put food on the table.”