Sunday, 5 July 2015

Shoprite loses liquor licence case in Constitutional Court

Liquor Licence -  Shoprite will have no choice but to stop selling liquor in its supermarkets in the Eastern Cape.  This follows the ruling by the constitutional court on 30 June 2015 that the Eastern Cape Liquor Act (“the Liquor Act”) had not arbitrarily deprived Shoprite of its property - its liquor licences.  

The run-up to this judgement can be summarised as follows.  Shoprite was granted grocer’s wine licences in the Eastern Cape between 1989 and 2003. The Eastern Cape Liquor Act(“Liquor Act) came into force in 2004.   It determined that grocer’s wine licences would be valid only until 2014. However, licence holders could apply before 2009 to convert these licences into licences allowing them to sell all kinds of liquor on separate premises.   Shoprite alleged that this would result in it being deprived of its property – its liquor licences. 

The Concourt found that a liquor licence qualifies to be regarded as property.  Furthermore, that Shoprite was not totally deprived of this property.   Shoprite still had the chance to convert these licences. In reality, Shoprite would have to transfer any converted liquor licence to premises outside of its supermarkets.  This would not be practical, as they already have their own liquor stores adjacent (or close) to most of their supermarkets.

The Concourt also found that the change in the licensing system affecting supermarkets did not extinguish any other fundamental constitutional rights or values of the licence holders.   Furthermore, if the change in the licensing system was found to be rational, there could not be any arbitrary deprivation of property.   It found that it was rational to change the licensing system in order to simplify it and that courts should not easily interfere with the choices made by legislatures.

(Summary by The Licence Co)  

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