19 April 2020
Straight & Two Beers
Covid-19 has shown that it loves crowded places like drinking holes
Ahead of the ANC’s national conference in 2017, the Gauteng provincial government saw the opportunity to make a quick buck.
Conferences of the ANC are jamborees with endless parties running parallel to the political debates. Moneyed delegates are known for flaunting their wealth by splashing on expensive booze to impress slay queens and ice boys alike.
The government decided that, for the duration of the conference, alcohol outlets would be allowed to remain open beyond their usual trading hours.
No sooner than this announcement was made than then economic development MEC Lebogang Maile backtracking amid accusations that the law was being bent for party political reasons. Gauteng still remains flexible when it comes to the sale of alcohol.
For instance, it remains one of the few provinces that allows liquor stores to open on Sundays and public holidays.
In the wake of the coronavirus, booze has taken the flak from the authorities as one of the catalysts for the transmission of the deadly contagion.
The clampdown on alcohol seemed well-reasoned given how Covid-19 is transmitted and how people behave at watering holes, being all touchy-feely with each other and generally misbehaving in their stupor. Suddenly, the Gauteng government now wants the restrictions on the sale of alcohol to remain beyond the virus’s lifespan.
Covid-19 has shown that it loves places where people gather in numbers, such as churches, schools, taverns, and stadiums. It is for this reason that the experts have urged us to starve the virus by staying at home.
So far so good, except that since the lockdown started, stock has been running low. Whereas you can replenish your grocery at any time, you cannot stock your bar since the sale of alcohol is banned during the lockdown.
As was bound to happen, the illicit sale of alcohol has spiked and the sellers have made a killing on the black market, leading to a spike in prices.
They clamoured for President Cyril Ramaphosa to relax the rules and allow the limited sale of alcohol, but the president has turned a deaf ear. Booze, the government said, is not an essential item and people are better off without it.
However, an organisation called the Gauteng Liquor Forum is not taking this matter lying down. The forum has threatened to drag the president to court if he does not open the watering holes.
As a professional drinker myself, I am inclined to agree with the forum, if only on principle and solidarity. However, the truth is that if the government allows booze to flow, that would be the end of the lockdown.
Google reports that home-brewed beer was the most-searched word this week in South Africa. Clearly, the masses are getting thirsty and restless, hence there has been the looting of bottle stores. However, to avoid getting on the wrong side of cowboy Bheki Cele, I advice that you get started on that yeast, brown sugar and other ingredients necessary to make your intoxicant.
But please stay at home.