The Western Cape Liquor Authority (WCLA) is a statutory body established in terms of and governed by the Western Cape Liquor Act 4/2008 (as amended). Our mandate is to regulate the retail sale and micro-manufacture of liquor in the Western Cape. By regulating liquor effectively in the public interest, we aim to help reduce the harms associated with alcohol.
The harmful use of alcohol causes substantial health, social and economic burdens for society. It is among the leading risk factors for disease burden in populations worldwide. South Africa is ranked as one of the top 20 biggest drinking nations according to a statistical update from the World Health Organisation (WHO) tracking alcohol consumption across 194 countries. In South Africa the tangible financial cost of harmful alcohol consumption amounts to approximately R37.9 billion annually, including the cost of health care, crime and social welfare, alcohol treatment and prevention, and road traffic accidents (from the Western Cape Government White Paper on Alcohol-Related Harms Reduction).
In the Western Cape, the link between alcohol and crime and violence is particularly prominent. Alcohol is linked to 50% of murders in the Province. Of the total number of alcohol-attributable deaths, 32.0% are from unintentional injuries, and 13.7% are from intentional injuries. Cheap products target people experiencing poor socio-economic conditions, and risky drinking patterns directly correlate with low-income patterns.
Within communities, women, youth, children and persons with disabilities are most vulnerable and often the victims of violence as a result of the abuse of liquor. Under-age drinking, binge drinking and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) are prevalent and have a significant negative impact on wellbeing and access to opportunities.
Regulation includes licensing, education and awareness, compliance and enforcement, and adjudication. Choosing to trade in liquor legally creates an ongoing relationship with the WCLA as the regulator. For every liquor licence granted, the Liquor Act must be enforced and alcohol-related harms mitigated. Each liquor licence issued has conditions attached to it, which ensure the industry is regulated and licence holders take responsibility for reducing the harms associated with alcohol. We are required to monitor each licence holder and check that they are complying with their licence conditions. Where licence conditions are contravened we must conduct enforcement operations.
The annual renewal fees paid by licence holders are utilised to fund the costs of regulating the liquor industry in the public interest, which means protecting communities from the harmful consequences of alcohol. This work includes:
As part of a resolution taken by the Western Cape Provincial Cabinet, it was decided that the WCLA should sustain its own operations through the payment of licensing fees to improve efficiencies and ensure that the cost of regulation is not an additional burden on public funds. Licence renewal fees currently cover 79% of the WCLA’s budget.
The purpose of obtaining a liquor licence is not just to secure permission to trade in liquor. The licence renewal fee (along with a record of compliance) is the requirement to be able to continue participating in a regulated environment. The WCLA is constantly striving to improve the efficiency of its operations and enable businesses to trade safely and responsibly.
The licence renewal fees are paid in terms of section 63 of the Western Cape Liquor Act and are currently not linked to the ability of the licence holder to trade, the volumes of liquor they sell nor to their turnover. In terms of section 30(4) of the Act, the amount is not refundable. Thus, the Act in its current form does not allow the WCLA to grant licence holders any reprieves due to the alcohol bans. In other words, the WCLA is obligated to carry out the renewal fee process, and this legislated obligation cannot be waived.
Whilst we understand the pressure licence holders are under economically, a rebate of the licence renewal fees - were it possible legally - would not bring large scale relief to licence holders. A rebate on a pro rata basis for the lockdown periods would be nominal.
We empathise with the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe economic impact on many businesses. To mitigate this, we have encouraged licence holders in financial distress to approach the Western Cape Government COVID-19 Content Centre for Business for business support or disaster relief funding (Email: email@example.com Website: www.supportbusiness.co.za).
The work of the WCLA to regulate the liquor industry has continued throughout all stages of the lockdown and alcohol bans. Since the start of the national state of disaster, the Compliance and Enforcement unit of the WCLA specifically has needed to intensify its efforts. In terms of the National Disaster Management Act and Regulations, the WCLA liquor inspectors are appointed as Peace Officers and are accordingly classified as an essential service. From 27 March 2020 to 21 February 2021, we conducted 370 investigations into allegations of contraventions of the National Disaster Management Regulations, resulting in the over 50 temporary suspensions and 4 revocations of licences.
The WCLA is working on a proposal for a differentiated pricing model, which aims to provide for cost reflective differentiated fees where the market in respect of liquor outlets will be segmented in a differentiated but fair manner (with various differential pricing options). The legislative amendments relating to the differentiated pricing model have been proposed for inclusion in the urgent set of legislative amendments which are currently underway.
Since the creation of safe and cohesive communities is one of the top strategic priorities of the Western Cape Government as part of its safety plan, the WCLA has aligned its strategic focus specifically towards alcohol-related harms reduction.
The White Paper on Alcohol-Related Harms Reduction lays out an evidence-based and data-led approach for reducing the harms associated with alcohol, which constitute a substantial health, social and economic burden for the Western Cape.
In addition, the Western Cape Government’s Safety Plan – which aims to create safer and more cohesive communities – outlines the significant role played by alcohol in our high levels of violence and crime. You can find the full Safety Plan here.
There are four licence types (i.t.o. the Western Cape Liquor Act), excluding temporary and event licences:
The Liquor Licensing Tribunal or Presiding Officer, as the case may be, may not grant a licence, unless it or he or she is satisfied on a balance of probabilities that—
- the granting thereof is in the public interest;
- the applicant is of good character, and not disqualified from holding a licence in terms of section 35 of the Westerns Cape Liquor Act 2008 as amended;
- the premises on which the sale or consumption of liquor will take place are or will upon completion be suitable for use by the applicant for the purposes of the licence;
- the applicant has the right to occupy the proposed licensed premises (this does not apply for a licence for the sale of liquor for consumption on or off the premises upon which liquor is sold); and
- the granting of the application does not prejudice—
- Original Liquor Licence or a copy thereof.
- Up to date Renewal Notice and proof of payment.
- For a Close Corporation (CC) or a Private Company (Pty Ltd), proof of the Appointment of a Manager must be displayed.
- Clearly mark a Restricted Area in bold-faced, upper case letters at least 5 cm in height and in black lettering not less than 0.5 cm wide.
- The name of the premises, type of licence issued, trading hours and licence number must be displayed on the front door or window of the licensed premises, in characters not less than 5 cm in height.
As of December 2021, there are about 8903 liquor licences in the province.