The ongoing load shedding crisis is hitting thousands of township taverns and pubs hard, as customers avoid establishments that can’t offer cold beer, light, and music.
Oupa Mthombeni, president of the Concerned Tshwane Liquor Traders Association, has spoken out about the issue, highlighting the following challenges facing these businesses:
- Over 3,500 taverns and pubs are under serious pressure
- Difficulties in paying liquor license fees due to reduced income
- Desperation leading to potential lawlessness and illegal operations
A Cry for Help from the Association President
Mthombeni recently submitted a letter to the provincial department, inviting them to engage in a discussion about the challenges facing these businesses. He expressed frustration that the government often takes these establishments for granted and fails to recognize their contributions to the economy.
He points out that taverns and pubs:
- Create jobs and income opportunities
- Support informal traders who sell food and other products to their customers
The Burden of Liquor License Fees in Gauteng
Mthombeni also emphasizes the heavy financial burden that tavern owners face in Gauteng, where they must pay R5,000 for a liquor license every year. If they miss the deadline, additional fees are imposed:
- R2,500 added for paying a day late
- Another R2,500 added after seven days
These fees are not required in other provinces, and the government ignored concerns raised when the legislation was passed.
The Impact of Load Shedding on Taverns and Pubs
With load shedding disrupting power supply, many taverns and pubs can’t afford backup power sources. This has led to desperate situations where owners borrow money from one another to cover payments. Mthombeni states:
- Members are in trouble and desperate
- Losing a liquor license means permanent exclusion from the system
The Potential Consequences of Inaction
Mthombeni warns that without effective intervention from the government, more taverns and pubs will lose their licenses and resort to desperate measures, such as:
- Operating without licenses
- Selling liquor outside legal trading hours
- Selling to underage customers
This lawlessness could be encouraged by desperation if the government continues to overlook the struggles of these businesses.
Real Stories from Tavern Owners
Busi Nkosi, who operates Pink House in Mamelodi, shares her own experience of borrowing money from a fellow member to save her tavern. She is already in debt and struggles to cover both living and business expenses.
Mthombeni adds that two other members have penalties reaching R10,000 and are at serious risk of losing their licenses.
Awaiting Response from Authorities
As of now, authority bodies have not responded to questions about the amounts or penalties, nor addressed reports of Gauteng being unfairly expected to pay for licenses while other provinces are exempt.
The plight of these taverns and pubs serves as a stark reminder of the impact of load shedding on small businesses. The government must take action to address these challenges, or risk driving many establishments to desperation and potential lawlessness.