Taverners take a leaf from COVID-19 safety ‘bible’

100 taverners gathered for training on enhanced COVID-19 compliance

The popular Slotjhile Pub and Restaurant in Tembisa, Gauteng, played host to an unusual clientele yesterday as 100 fellow taverners gathered at the venue for training on enhanced COVID-19 compliance.

The tavern owners spent three hours going through the finer points of how to ensure maximum COVID-19 safety, including maintaining the correct social distancing and client numbers for their outlet, hygiene and sanitation protocols and mask wearing.

The protocols are contained in a Gauteng Liquor Board-approved manual that serves as the COVID-19 “bible” for taverners.

Gauteng has become a major focal point in the battle against Covid-19 as the province leads the country with the highest infections. These focus groups, particularly in Gauteng, will go a long way in the fight to reverse the pandemic’s trajectory.

Eric Xayiya, Special Adviser to Gauteng Premier David Makhura, said: “One of the reasons we are here is to ensure we work with our people so that we ensure compliance. There should be collaboration with the people, from sectors and each and every house. That will help us to reduce the numbers. You can do your ban, but coming back from that ban economically is very difficult. If there is co-operation and collaboration with everyone on the ground, particularly in a province like Gauteng, with a lot of activity, we might be able to lower the numbers.”

The protocols are contained in a Gauteng Liquor Board-approved manual that serves as the COVID-19 “bible” for taverners.

Raymond Martin, CEO of the Gauteng Liquor Board, said: “We appreciate this initiative, we support it 100%. It is in keeping with what the Liquor Board stands for, which is to ensure responsible trading as well as responsible drinking in our outlets. We want to encourage each of the members here and the patrons out there to continue with the wearing of masks and social distancing.”

National Liquor Traders Convenor Lucky Ntimane said the fact that taverners who would usually regard one another as competitors had closed their doors to attend the training showed their commitment to keeping COVID-19 in check as the 3rd wave intensifies.

“We are united in the fight against COVID-19 and we are doing everything possible to keep our customers and staff safe. No one should come to a tavern expecting to misbehave or disregard the safety protocols, we won’t accept it,” said Ntimane.

The training, sponsored by Distell, was conducted under the auspices of Gauteng Liquor Traders in co-operation with the Gauteng Liquor Board.

The focus groups kicked off in the Western Cape last week and will continue in major metros in the coming weeks as part of a continuing effort to ensure maximum COVID-19 compliance from outlets.

In addition to the training, and incentives offered to operators to adhere to COVID-19 protocols and liquor licence conditions, as well as to promote a culture of responsible drinking, the liquor industry has funded community patrollers to maintain safety and security around taverns, creating safe zones in the community.

Taverns are inspected for compliance and those that fail to meet the standard after receiving a warning are reported to the authorities for further action. The liquor industry has also suspended supplies to non-compliant outlets.

Clarence Sibiya, Distell Head of the Responsible Alcohol Programme, said he was delighted by the support from taverners for the training. “Partnerships like these where companies like Distell, small township businesses and provincial authorities work together for the common good show we can achieve a great deal when we all pull in the same direction,” said Sibiya. “This pandemic has forged a new level of co-operation that we can build on together for a better future,” he concluded.

Through the alcohol industry body AWARE.org, a total of 40 000 PPE packs have been distributed to taverns, along with sanitiser and educational material to raise awareness of the risks of COVID-19 and the need for maximum vigilance, especially as the 3rd wave takes hold.

AWARE.org has also distributed food parcels to 20 000 taverns during lockdown, in addition to donations of PPE to 25 hospitals, representing a total investment of R145 million in the industry’s COVID-19 response. This is apart from additional initiatives by the manufacturers themselves.