A new body representing liquor sellers in the country – Botswana Beverage Association has expressed worries on the current operating hours for the alcohol industry.
The association says the operating hours which were effected in late February after a prolonged alcohol sale ban are not working in favour for all operators. The other main concern for the group is that a majority of their customers have been closed out as during the allowed operational hours they are at work.
The association which consists of owners of lounges, bars, night clubs and pubs held their first public appearance this past week since their registration in early 2021.
The association shared with journalists some of the problems which include unresolved issues with former Minister of Investment Trade – Peggy Serame. Serame has since been reshuffled to the Finance Ministry and replaced with Mmusi Kgafela.
Key issues for industry according to the association entails potential job losses within their industry and overdue rentals.
The association also believes that they have been disadvantaged by the Covid 19 restrictions and safety measures preferably in the supply chain. As they highlighted that alcohol on a take away basis disadvantages as they find it difficult to make profit as most of them are located in the outskirts of populated areas.
The association says the industry’s allocated time of operation is a disadvantage as most of their potential customers are at work and weekends are not available because they are expected to close. The structure of their business allows for luxury and customers find it hard to eat for food with their preferred alcoholic beverages.
BOBA vice president Kealeboga Bogatsu said owners depend on sales and profits from their businesses.
“Rentals for night clubs are very high by nature. Some of our members have been evicted while other and some have unpaid overdue rentals. The smallest rental payment within our membership is P11 000 per month and the highest rental payment is P55 000 per month. One may wonder how these people are surviving seeing as they have not been operating for more than 12 months”, said Bogatsu.
“Government introduced a subsidy to assist businesses but after three months it was ceased. It was ceased with the belief that businesses were slowly opening up their doors. However night clubs, discotheques have not been operational for more than a year. Our concerns are over why Government released a gazette to close down night clubs and did not provide a sort of alternative support such as relief fund for the business’s rentals and employee welfare,” Bogatsu.
The newly registered association thus pleaded with government to throw them a life line amidst the inactive entertainment industry due to the presence of Covid 19 pandemic in Botswana.
A fortnight ago the Ministry of Investment Trade and Industry announced its decision to exempt discotheques or night clubs from payment of liquor license renewal and penalty fees for a period of two years effective April 2020 to March 2022. The intention the ministry said was to cushion these businesses as they were financially and economically disadvantaged due to Covid pandemic.