Why the law proposed to hold bar owners liable for drunks may not work

Liquor outlet owners may soon be held responsible for the behaviour of their inebriated patrons, even once they leave their premises.

With South Africa placing in the world’s top 5 when it comes to alcohol abuse, the Department of Trade and Industry has taken the debate to the public, starting with its proposed legislation.

(Also read our article: Deadline for public comment on proposed national liquor law changes looms)

CapeTalk presenter Kieno Kammies spoke with Leon Louw, Director of the Free Market Foundation about the flaws in the proposed legislation.

According Louw, the draft legislation has several impractical limitations.

The idea of vicarious liability exists in our law. Secondly, even the police are unable to conduct the precursor tests to assess intoxication. The law doesn't say that we may not serve liquor to drunk people. It holds owners liable if they serve them liquor and, thereafter, they to do something wrong.

Leon Louw, Director of the Free Market Foundation

The draft National Liquor Policy proposes that:

  • The availability of liquor be reduced by regulating days and hours when liquor sales will be permitted in accordance with the National Liquor Norms and Standards;

  • The national minimum legal age at which alcohol can be purchased and consumed be raised from 18 to twenty one 21 years;

  • Liquor premises be located at least 500 meters away from schools, places of worship; recreation facilities, rehabilitation or retreat centres, residential areas and public institutions;

  • The Minister of Trade and Industry determine the restrictions and parameters for advertising and marketing of liquor products. This includes the restriction of advertisement of the alcoholic beverages, prohibitions of sponsorship and promotion associated with alcoholic beverages;

The proposed legislation closes for public review on 13 August 2015.

For more information on how to comment on the National Liquor policy visit the Government website.

Listen to the full conversation from CapeTalk's Breakfast with Kieno Kammies:


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