Getting Your Fix

Written By: The Lowdown - Oct• 30•12

Imbibers of alcoholic beverages around the country are most peeved at the recent enforcement of the hours during which bars, bottle stores, night clubs and restaurants may sell alcoholic beverages to members of the public, as are some pub and bar owners. As a non drinker, it is of no consequence to me, but I did take the time to investigate this a bit further.


Up to date and relevant statistics on Zambia are not readily available (if they even exist) but with the number of incidences of assault, unlawful wounding and grievous bodily harm as well as domestic violence, it is believed that in the majority of these cases, alcohol was a factor. This is quite apart from road traffic accidents.  Only last month, a young man, one of ‘our’ community, died as a result of the actions of a drunken driver; a young man known to many of us and a young life brought to an abrupt and unnecessary end.


And this is happening all over Zambia, to people in other communities, people not known to us. One only has to drive down the road on a Friday or Saturday evening, you will undoubtedly see at least one car weaving down the road. You will see many more pedestrians weaving down the side of the road. Just a few weeks ago, I was involved in an incident where someone’s driver was found drunk in charge of a vehicle mid-morning, with his alcohol level being almost double the legal limit. Subsequent investigations revealed that the alcohol had been purchased earlier that morning, around 7 am.


Restrictions on the hours during which public drinking establishments and retail outlets can sell alcoholic beverages is not anything new. Such legislation has been in place for many years. In fact, in 2011 when the new Liquor Licencing Act was signed into law, the previous one had been in existence since 1959 with the last update having taken place in 1972 – it still quoted gallons, miles and times as two o’clock rather than the 24 hour format which is the norm inZambia. The 2011 Act also repealed the Traditional Beer Act, meaning that the sale of chibuku or Shake Shake is now controlled under the Liquor Licencing Act, together with clear beers, wines and spirits. What was not happening was the enforcement of the Act and this is what is happening now which has so upset everyone.


As with everything, there are always two sides.  Changes in opening hours in the UK a few years ago raised questions on whether this would not result in binge drinking as patrons hurried to drink as much as possible before closing time. The other concern was whether a fixed closing time would not contribute to social disorder as drunken patrons were all forced out on to the streets at the same time, rather than wobbling out in dribs and drabs.


Limiting the hours that pubs, bars and nightclubs can remain open will certainly have an effect on the owner’s bottom line and this is relevant for those restaurants which serve breakfasts with the enormously popular Bloody Mary. It will also affect sales when there are big football matches on.  Imagine if the bars had all had to close at 10 pm whenZambiawon the Africa Cup of Nations, which finished well after midnight.  Even I needed a drink by the time we got to the end! But you will be pleased to know that pub owners can apply for extended licencing hours when special events are taking place.


So the next time you go on down to your local Tarven and partake of your favourite chibuli or kachasu, let’s all do as the Mosi advert exhorts us to do – Drink Responsibly.

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