Stricter control of liquor trading hours in Kouga

Law enforcers will be able to exercise stricter control over drinking now that Kouga Council has finally passed a new Liquor Trading Hours by-law.
The new by-law will mean that all pubs and taverns and in Kouga will be allowed to sell liquor only in the hours of 10 am and midnight from Monday to Thursday. On Fridays and Saturdays the hours extend to 2 am and on Sundays they retract to 10 pm.
Fines of up to R30 000 will be imposed for any establishment breaking these laws.
The municipality says the by-laws will help ensure a safer holiday for all during the festive season. But publicans and sellers of liquor are concerned that if these by-laws are enforced during season – with no extension of trading hours – this will be highly detrimental to businesses that sell liquor. They contend that businesses have only about 4-6 weeks each year end to improve their trading and businesses – especially after a hard winter.
Asked to comment, the municipality liaison said an item will be tabled to Council regarding the possible extension of liquor trading-hours over the festive season.
The Kouga Municipality previously did not have a valid liquor trading hours by-law and most establishments selling liquor operated under national liquor trading hours. There was no law to enforce transgressions and attempts to do so failed (the case of Belligan vs Kouga Municipality). It is a requirement that trading hours be set by each municipality in the country.
More than 30 owners of pubs, restaurants and bottle stores in Kouga attended a meeting last year in October and more meetings in April this year about the new liquor trading bylaws. Representatives from Council presented the initial draft law to attendees to gauge feedback from the community. St Francis Bay pub owners and restaurateurs provided input at these meetings.
But the time for objections and input in the drafting of these by-laws is over. The by-law has already been sent to the Department of Local Government and Traditional Affairs for promulgation in the Government Gazette. Once it has been gazetted (in the next month) the hours will be enforceable and hefty fines for transgressions can be issued that will be upheld by the courts.
John Hammond of St Francis Business Chamber, and himself a publican, says the new by-laws were revealed to most licence holders by the local police liquor licence officer.
“The new times are in line with business needs during normal trading patterns and the late closing on Friday and Saturday will I am sure be in line with expectations of most traders. The early closing on week nights and at 10 o’clock on Sundays is also in line with current trading patterns so everyone should be happy.”
But, Hammond points out the challenge for business will be the hours that apply during peak tourism periods within Kouga as these do have a major impact on the attractiveness of a destination location such as St Francis. “One cannot imagine that local council would be so naive or foolish to impose restricted trading during the Christmas and New Year period when thousands upon thousands of tourists make for coastal locations to enjoy the long break and to spend time with friends and family while relaxing and being entertained. Why would any Municipality with a sound mind implement prohibitive trading hours when other locations such as Plettenberg Bay right on our door step is targeting the same target markets and with extended trading hours at holiday season?
“No right minded council will deliberately implement a strategy that will reduce the flow of tourists to the area, reduce bed occupancy or house rentals and reduce in turn the revenue and employment opportunities of their local community. The loss in jobs and the impact on trading will impact not only on business but on the council itself as shops and businesses will close, unemployment will rise and with the next election coming soon you can well imagine how the voters will react.
“We obviously need to wait and see how the Municipality addresses trading over the peak period but as in previous years common sense has prevailed with extended hours and a continuous improvement in trading that helps sustains business throughout the year.”
The previous head of St Francis Tourism, Warren Manser and a national tour guide, warned last year that youngsters with no pubs and bars to go to in season will create a huge problem. “Youngsters on holiday want to party very late, so closing the bars and pubs so early will force these kids to walk the street of St Francis and drink in public and on the beaches.
“This is a festive time of year so our pubs and bars need to be able to offer the services to our visitors and be able to stay open most certainly past midnight.”
One local businessman believes that if these trading hours are enforced over season the municipality will stop one of the sectors of business profiting in the only window St Francis as a holiday destination has to actually make money, in order to survive the year.
“The target of this law is small businesses. Small businesses cannot survive all the red tape, all the complex laws, all the ridiculous restraints and conditions applied, make a profit, employ people, and then be expected to prosper. It’s just not possible.”
The towns of Plettenberg Bay and Knysna have trading hours until 2 am every day plus bottle stores can sell liquor from 8 am till 9 pm every day.
Hammond adds that there is a Kouga process where one applies for extended trading hours for special occasions. This has been used often for nights with bands or birthday parties etc.
“During peak season we have applied every year for Legends but due to the number of applications from multiple establishments the council have usually issued a blanket extension notice.
“We obviously need to wait and see but I am confident that common sense will prevail,”Hammond reiterated.. “St Francis with all its great amenities and quality lifestyle will continue as the destination of choice for discerning visitors.
“The municipality recognises the above factors which apply at different levels to towns and villages in Kouga. No government department wants to be accused of making decisions that will reduce employment or contribute to businesses failure and hence reducing revenue streams to themselves. Kouga council members have recognised this factor over the last six years.”

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