Cape Town – Walking a straight line, balancing on one leg, reciting the alphabet backwards or blowing into a breathalyser are some of the most well-known ways law enforcement test for sobriety.
However, liquor outlet owners may soon be the ones having to check their patrons before they leave their establishments. Draft legislation could see owners held liable for the actions of their patrons after they have left an establishment.
In response, the Free Market Foundation’s executive manager, Leon Louw, said that the draft policy was “unfair, impractical and unreasonable.”
“If a township shebeen or tavern owner serves drink to an inebriated person who then commits a crime or has an accident, the publican must pay up and/or face criminal charges. The Free Market Foundation contends that apart from the injustice of this idea, which is contrary to long established legal principles, it will be unworkable and costly.”
Louw questioned where and how “will they do this”, saying: “Should he march his hapless customer off to the police station or lock him/her in until sober? If a customer, deemed to be sober, leaves a tavern then swigs from a hip flask or takes a drink from a friend before walking into a passing vehicle, is the tavern owner liable and how would this be determined?”
The Department of Trade and Industry’s spokesman, Sidwell Medupe, said the draft policy was an attempt to police liquor trading and making traders more responsible for curbing abuse.
“We are number two in the SADC region in terms of alcohol abuse and globally we are among the top five. We all need to come together to create a solution and ensure that there is a balance between the societal issue and the traders.”
He welcomed public comment on the proposed legislation, saying that the public has until August 13 to make submissions.
Bar and restaurant managers in Long Street said they do not see how the policy could be implemented.
Long Street Café manager Jeremy Hodges compared the proposed policy to holding a parent liable for crimes committed by a child.
“We have a rule here that if the barmen see a person has had too much they come to me and tell me and we cut that person off.
“They (lawmakers) are going to kill the club industry.”
He said the department should instead host forums where owners and managers could be educated on how to handle drunken customers responsibly.
“You can stop them from drinking but they still have to go home and even if they’re drunk it doesn’t mean they will get into a fight or drive. I mean, where you will draw the line?”
The manager at restaurant the Mexican, Peter van den Berg, said should the proposed policy be signed into law, the clubs and bars would be worse affected than restaurants.
“I heard about it. I just don’t see how they will control it.
“There needs to be more visible policing here on Long Street so incidents can be curbed before they happen.”