Gaborone ‑ The Botswana government has relaxed liquor trading hours ahead of the festive season, a move that has pleased imbibers, who have had to endure 10 years of tight alcohol laws.
President Mokgweetsi Masisi had promised to look into the stringent trading hours, introduced by his predecessor, Ian Khama, who stepped down in March this year.
Last week, the news that the bibulous public was waiting for arrived with the announcement that the trading hours would be extended.
Bars will now operate until midnight during weekends and public holidays, up from 23h00 and 22h00, respectively.
Bottle stores were not allowed to open on public holidays but this has drastically changed, as they would now be able to open from 10h00 up to 19h30.
Opening hours for most outlets have been brought forward, with bottle stores opening at 10h00 while bars will start operating at midday. Most bars used to open as late as 15h00 during the week and on Sundays.
Nightclub owners are also smiling after a significant shift in the operating hours. Most nightclubs operated between 19h00 and 02h00 but the closing time has been stretched to 06h00.
Botswana’s Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry announced last week Friday that the new times were with immediate effect.
The Masisi Administration initiated a consultation process over the trading hours early this year, which culminated in last week's announcement.
Beer brewer, Kgalagadi Breweries Limited (KBL), had appealed to the previous administration to look into the operating hours, as this had an adverse impact on its operations. The operating hours, coupled with the Khama administration's introduction of the alcohol levy, saw Kgalagadi Breweries shed jobs.
But the Masisi Administration reduced the alcohol levy from 55% to 35%, which has seen KBL announce a beer price reduction for the first time in years.
Beer drinkers are now preparing for a "merrier" festive season after the slash of the alcohol levy as well as the extension of operating hours.
Critics argued that the introduction of the alcohol levy in 2008 and the restriction of trading hours, forcing locals to cross to neighbouring countries, particularly South Africa, for leisure.
Meanwhile, the government has announced that no bottles should be allowed at music festivals, trade fairs and picnics.
"Traders are advised to use disposable and plastic containers for sale and consumption of beverages during festivals, trade fairs and picnics," the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry said in a statement.