East London patrons fill pubs in defiance of Covid-19 limits

A packed East London pub full of patrons in defiance of new limits on how many people are allowed.
A packed East London pub full of patrons in defiance of new limits on how many people are allowed.

East London pubs and bars are adhering to the 6pm closing time, but patrons are still gathering in numbers beyond the limit stipulated by government.

Pubs and clubs have been limited to 50 patrons at a time as per new government regulations to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

During the weekend the DispatchLIVE visited several popular East London pubs.

At Fanas Pub and Braai in the East London CBD, no more patrons were allowed to enter the premises after 5pm.

However, people appeared to be buying alcohol to take away and drink off premises.

The “takeaway” service drew huge crowds of people.

At the three pubs visited by DispatchLIVE — Fanas, Chimza's Place in Braelyn and Amahlathi in Amalinda — patron numbers were estimated at more than 200 inside the establishments before 5pm. 

Speaking on condition of anonymity, for fear of being targeted by municipal officials, managers said they allowed the numbers to rise because they wanted to cash in before the stipulated 6pm closing time.

Before entering these pubs, a security guard was providing hand sanitisers to customers entering the premises.

“We cannot control people coming in, that is impossible to do when you are in this business. By 6pm we were not allowing anyone coming in but to those going out we sell 'takeaways' and the customer pays for the bottle,” said one manager.

He said in the long run the 6pm and 1pm (Sunday) closing times would have a negative impact on his business.

“This kind of business sees positive benefits on weekends and especially on Sundays. Now that has been taken away from us. I understand the point of not having more than 50 patrons at a given time, but how will closing early prevent the spread of the virus?” asked the manager.

Another manager said liquor outlets with licences would adhere to the stipulated times, but his worry was shebeens and taverns in townships and informal settlements, which normally kept open until the early morning. He urged other businesses to adhere to the guidelines.

“People will always want to drink and if we, managers, don't take a stand and stick to what the president said, we will be putting many lives at risk because of profits.

“It's easy for law enforcement to control us because we are in the CBD, but what about those in the midst of an informal settlement, where it is not possible to police? Those people are at risk,” he said.

Vendor Nomapha Duna, who sells braai meat to patrons outside Chimza's Place,  said her business usually only started picking up after midnight but now it was impossible to make ends meet.

“There is nothing I can do about it. This virus affects all of us, rich and poor, all races,” said Duna.