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Gauteng liquor traders face licence deadline

| Legislation

Up to 9,500 liquor businesses in Gauteng could be forced to close if they do not verify the status of their licences with the Gauteng Liquor Board by the end of next month.

Last month, the board gave the affected businesses, including liquor shops owned by grocery chains such as Woolworths and Pick n Pay, as well as restaurant chains like News Café, a 45-day deadline to validate their licences or stop trading.

Gauteng economic development spokeswoman Phindile Kunene said on Thursday the database verification exercise was conducted annually.

She said it was intended "to allow a window period within which liquor traders could be assisted to comply with laws governing their businesses, as well as to update records and ensure that any missing fields on the database were filled in.

"Since the records fluctuate, meaning there are new entrants and old liquor traders who may no longer be trading, the verification process will assist in identifying those within a prescribed period, and to act against the defaulters," she said.

The deadline is April 30, according to an advert placed in a national newspaper last month.

"Failure by liquor traders whose businesses appear on the list to verify and update the status of their licences before the closing date will result in their licences being declared null and void and (they) will not be allowed to continue trading," the advert read.

However, attorney Leon Slotow, who said Woolworths liquor stores and News Café were among his more than 1,000 clients, said that since the advert was published it had been difficult to get the full list of businesses affected from the Gauteng Liquor Board.

He said it would also be costly for businesses to put together the documentation required for the verification process as some papers would have to be obtained from auditors.

Mr Slotow said while he accepted the liquor board wanted to "clean up its act", the cost should not be passed on to licensees. He said there were no provisions in the Liquor Act granting the board powers in the verification process such as terminating licences.

Gauteng Liquor Traders Association president Linda Madida agreed with Mr Slotow, saying "the process is confusing".

Ms Kunene said the requirements for verification were a certified copy of the liquor licence, copies of company registration documents, a certified copy of the owner’s identity document, as well as work permits and passports when the business is owned by non-South African citizens.

Certified copies of proof of renewals dating back three years were required for businesses that had been in operation for a long period, she said.

Ms Kunene said the board was within its powers to terminate unverified licences as the law provided for a licence to expire "on a date on which the licensee abandons it in writing or on a date otherwise determined by the board".

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