BOTTLE stores and other liquor selling joints in Zimbabwe are now allowed to sell alcohol, but there is a catch!
Patrons cannot sit and drink in them as Government fears that fully reopening bars will give rise to a second wave of Covid-19 local infections.
This has put bar owners and Bulawayo residents in a Catch-22 situation and divided them into two distinct camps.
Those who advocate for total opening and those who believe they should remain totally closed to prevent the spread of the deadly Covid-19.
Such establishments, by their very nature, provide a conducive atmosphere for imbibers to relax and unwind after a long day. A home away from home, those who drink often say.
Giving the go ahead to sell but taking away the “atmosphere” is akin to tantalising pleasure without climax.
“It’s like giving a child a colourful sweet that induces drooling, only to discover the mouth-watering goodie is tasteless,” observed one imbiber.
Night club owners, who are still bearing overheads like rent and maintenance of premises say the announcement has left them confused.
Their businesses operate at night when a curfew runs from 8PM to 6AM so they need to operate during the day when the relaxation applies.
During a Cabinet briefing on Tuesday in Harare, Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Monica Mutsvangwa said: “Following representations from the Liquor Retailers’ Association seeking permission for liquor retailers to commence operations, Cabinet resolved that operations could resume in line with Covid-19 regulations and on condition that no liquor is consumed at their premises.”
Since the start of the lockdown, only supermarkets, with their tight security and refusal to allow on-site drinking, have been able to sell alcoholic beverages.
Some alcohol enthusiasts believe the relaxation is the first step towards total reopening of places of merriment.
A majority, however, feel it would be unwise to open bars and serve alcohol to patrons.
“This definitely won’t work. They must be honest to themselves and know if bars are open people will chill and not go home. So, it’s a case of them staying closed or fully opened with Covid-19 so called regulations,” said an avid patron who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Alcohol is a social lubricant, so if bars are going to sell how do they plan on getting patrons to leave the vicinity of their premises? It’ll be a nightmare for law enforcement as well,” said Mr Herbert Ndlovu.
Another said: “Well, this shows that slowly but surely the days are inching closer for our bars to reopen. I miss the loud music, and festivities when we go out with my friends. This shows that the curve is going down and it should stay that way.”
Another patron who spoke on condition of anonymity suggested that bars with the capacity to practice social distancing should be given the nod to operate.
“If a bar has the capacity to do a set-up for social distance, they should allow the bar to sell the liquor. It’s kind of pointless if bars open but only sell to patrons who’ll leave. What happens to the waitresses and waiters?”
Bar operators like Pub Lagondola manager Mr Bekithemba Masuku said confusion was the order of the day.
“We are still confused as to how we are going to operate as sports bars. We are waiting on the regulations on that. We need people to sit down and drink for us to make money. If they say a certain number are allowed to be in the premises and the times, we should be operating we shall reopen,” said Masuku.
The time that bars in Zimbabwe make money is in the evening. However, lockdown regulations state businesses must close at 4.30PM.
Bottle stores seem to fall in this bracket of operation as they open in the morning and can close at 4.30PM as per regulation. Before they would close at 8PM.
It has been nearly six months that the Government locked down the country in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus. But ever since the beginning of the lockdown, leisure spots and bars around the country have been closed and some have lost a lot of business in the process.
Government’s hardline stance, judging from what has happened in countries that allowed bars to reopen, appears to be reasonable,” said Mr Thabani Tshuma of Magwegwe West suburb.
Worldwide, the opening of bars and leisure sports has been identified as the root cause of spikes in new infections.
According to Forbes website, “bar outbreaks” have been recorded in France, where one 19-year-old with Covid-19 managed to infect 72 of his friends by partying at an over-packed bar in the small town of Quiberon. Just in the last few days, 16 people were diagnosed with Covid-19 after hundreds packed into a pub garden in Stone in England.
A medical doctor who asked not to be named said in Zimbabwe, the manner in which local infections are on the rise, the opening of bars could signify a second spike because revellers are sociable people.
“The risk of a second spike in infections caused by the reopening of bars could be the reason that Government is reluctant to fully reopen them,” added the doctor.