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No blues today: Throats are open and so are liquor outlets

Alcohol sales were banned under levels 4 and 5 of the coronavirus lockdown, but as the nation moved to level 3, the restrictions were eased.

The TOPS at SPAR in Norwood is open to customers. A limited number of people will be allowed inside the store to comply with social distancing measures. Picture: Ahmed Kajee/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG/CAPE TOWN - At 9 am on Monday morning, bottle stores and licenced venues across the country opened their doors for the first time in months to allow thirsty South Africans to stock up.

Alcohol sales were banned under levels 4 and 5 of the coronavirus lockdown, but as the nation moved to level 3 the restrictions were eased.

Under Level 3 regulations, any venue with a licence could sell alcohol but only from Monday to Thursday between 9 am and 5 pm.

Thousands of customers were expected to make their way to various alcohol outlets on Monday and that would mean long queues, lots of people, and difficulty in social distancing.

In Norwood, Johannesburg, there was a handful of customers lined up outside TOPS at SPAR. Customers queued for over an hour waiting to purchase their alcohol.

Franchise owner, George Mouskides, said there was enough stock in store.

“They shouldn’t worry as we are fully stocked and have enough alcohol,” he said.

A limited number of customers are allowed inside the store in order to comply with social distancing measures.

In Soweto, customers arrived en mass at a Shoprite liquor store as they waited for their chance to buy alcohol for the first time in 10 weeks.

Officials were helping costumers to maintain a safe distance in the queue.

It is expected to be very busy throughout the day with the queue getting longer by the minute.

ONLINE LIQUOR SALES

At the same time, for those who do not like the idea of joining long queues to restock their bars, online shopping is the obvious option.

OneDayOnly.co.za said sales of alcohol and wine had increased by almost 500%.

“People are doing a lot of alcohol shopping at the moment online. Don’t go and stand in long queues if you can help it, there is more than enough stock to be able to select from,” said spokesperson Matthew Leighton.

“When we looked at the sales figures just a little over last week, we saw that alcohol was up 220% in May compared to April. Looking at those figures again, we see that the sales are now up nearly 500% from last month,” he added.

CEO of the SA Liquor Brand Owners Association Kurt Moore said they had extensive protocols in place to keep liquor outlets safe, but e-commerce would definitely help ease long queues.

“We are hoping the use of e-commerce to purchase alcohol online will take away some of the pressure,” Moore said.

Moore said they were servicing and delivering stock over the past few days. He said crowd management and social distancing measures would be put in place.

“Retailers have previous experience in managing crowds. From an industry perspective, we are also hoping customers won’t stockpile as they will be serviced in the stores,” he said.

At the same time, the spokesperson for the consortium of Liquor Traders Association Hector Winston said: “We welcome the resumption of trade of alcohol under level 3. Our members will enforce all COVID-19 protocols.”

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For official information about COVID-19 from the Department of Health, please click here.