SAAPA SA says no to booze sold at petrol stations, and here is why

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History was made in June 2021, when BP announced that it was to be the first petroleum company to go to market with wine in South Africa.

In a statement, the company stated that as a core part of the bp group redefining convenience strategy, BP Southern Africa (bpSA), together with its convenience partner Pick n Pay, launched a first for the South African market: a wine to-go offer through the Pick n Pay Express forecourt convenience stores.

At the time of the launch, bpSA head of convenience Belinda Petersen said the company continuously explores opportunities to keep on top of trends to help deliver a superior customer experience, whether in-store or virtually.

She added, “In line with bp’s new strategy to ‘adapt to and grow its convenience and mobility business,’ our primary objective is to fully leverage innovation to unlock new value for our customers. Our strategic partnerships with South Africa’s leading brands such as Pick n Pay and Mr D place us on the front foot.”

The Pick n Pay Express store at BP Radiokop in the Westrand is the first to have wine out on shelves, with a planned rollout of the offer to selected BP sites throughout the country.

However, it seems that the initiative has not been met with excitement by all. This stems from the Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance in SA (SAAPA SA) voicing its concern about the fact that a supermarket chain outlet attached to a petrol station has been awarded a liquor licence.

Such is their dismay; SAAPA SA is now calling on all Provincial Liquor Authorities to implement an immediate moratorium on the awarding of all such licences.

In a statement, the alcohol group states, “SAAPA SA believe the decision to allow petrol stations to have a liquor licence raises a number of important questions, the most worrying of which is the slow pace of legislative change in the country.”

They further state that it also highlights the constraints on promoting a national alcohol policy for South Africa. “These constraints are a consequence of the constitutional separation of responsibilities for different aspects of alcohol regulation. Furthermore, there are worrying consequences of allowing global petrol giants to enter this market, especially in conjunction with supermarket chains that are already making huge profits from selling alcohol, threatening the future of small, independent liquor retailers, increasing the availability of alcohol, and causing job losses.”

In addition, SAAPA SA feels it is important to note that South Africa’s newly-adopted Liquor Policy of 2016 recommends strongly that premises attached to petrol stations should not be awarded liquor licences. In its statement, it elaborates, “The long-awaited Liquor Amendment Bill of 2016, which is based on the 2016 Policy, specifically outlaws the granting of licences to such premises. So, the failure to fast-track what was deemed by national government to be important and urgent amendments to the law has created the space for provinces to decide for themselves whether to award such licences.”

Moreover, SAAPA SA states that if provinces continue to give petrol stations licences, it will put pressure on the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) to remove the prohibition from the Bill or, if it keeps the ban in the final legislation, it will have to allow a special dispensation for those petrol station premises that have already been granted a licence. 

“A way around this would be for the DTIC right now to encourage provincial liquor boards to hold off on awarding such licences until the Bill has been processed, prevention being better (and easier) than cure.”

According to the group, there are several additional potential problems. One of which is that most petrol stations stay open 24 hours a day. 

SAAPA SA says, “Although it is unlikely that they will get liquor licences allowing them to sell wine 24 hours a day, being open all the time and having wine on the premises means that the chances of some of them selling the wine ‘under the counter’ outside of legal selling hours is very high.”

Furthermore, they claim there is a risk that allowing petrol stations to sell alcohol will lead to an increase in drink driving and undermine the efforts of the Department of Transport to reduce alcohol-related traffic incidents through the Road Traffic Amendment Bill, which Parliament is currently considering.

AS SAAPA SA, its 23 Alliance Partners from a range of sectors in civil society coupled with its research partners, calls on the government to address this issue urgently; what are your thoughts on being able to purchase wine from a fuel station’s forecourt? 

Share your views in the comment section below.

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