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Desperate craft brewers urge govt to lift alcohol sales ban to save businesses

Several businesses that Eyewitness News spoke to said that they had struggled to settle their bills and maintain jobs since President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the third ban on alcohol sales in December last year in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Following the strict lockdown regulations currently in place in South Africa, many breweries and micro-brewers are struggling to keep their doors open. Owner of Just Brewing Co. Julian Pienaar had to close a restaurant he co-owned and let some of his staff go, but managed to keep three out of his eight employees, including the chef who now works in his brewery. Picture: Xanderleigh Dookey-Makhaza

DURBAN - Small beer brewing companies are calling on government to reopen the sale of alcohol for off-site consumption in a bid to keep their businesses afloat.

The liquor industry has reportedly lost more than 165,000 jobs since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown last march. Around 30% of local breweries have permanently shut their doors.

Several businesses that Eyewitness News spoke to said that they had struggled to settle their bills and maintain jobs since President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the third ban on alcohol sales in December last year in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Julian Pienaar, owner of the Just Brewing Company in Boksburg, said that they could soon be out of work if the ban on liquor sales was not lifted soon.

"It is very difficult. We could probably not be working two weeks from now if they haven't lifted it."

WATCH: Craft brewer Julian Pienaar: We have lost a lot

Pienaar said that they had already downgraded their operations.

"We used to run a little restaurant from here. We had 11 people and we had to unfortunately let 8 people go. We supported them as much as we could to the end of May."

Pienaar has called on government to also permit the online trade of alcohol, saying that this could ensure the safety of both consumers and sellers.

At the same time, South Africa’s first black female brewer, Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela, has called on sympathetic South Africans to place pre-orders with small brewing companies in an effort to ensure that they have cash flow.

Nxusani-Mawela said that her business was on the brink of collapse due to the alcohol sales ban.

WATCH: Brewery owner Apiwe Nxusani-Mawela on alcohol sales ban: I don’t know how we'll get by

She established Brewsters Craft in 2015 and said that her plight was exacerbated by the lack of relief for small businesses in the liquor industry.

Nxusani-Mawela revealed that she’d lost hope that her business would survive the current ban on alcohol sales as it did the previous two.

She said that while she supported the initial COVID-19 lockdown in March last year, she now wanted to get back to business as government has failed to assist.

"Personally, I think it's about time that we look for a balanced approach where we allow some sort of trading so that we can also sustain our business while trying to save lives."

She said that her business was on the verge of bankruptcy.

"It has very much been a roller-coaster ride emotionally, physically, financially where the brewery itself is through a loan with the IDC and having to pay back the loans with no income, having to pay rental, having to pay staff... it has been very difficult."

Nxusani-Mawela has appealed to consumers to support the sector by pre-ordering their liquor, saying that this would assist in keeping the businesses afloat.

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