Bottle stores take over shopping centres

BEER drinking has become a culture for most Zimbabweans as witnessed by the number of bottle stores sprouting all over shopping centres outnumbering grocery shops.

And as beer patrons down the brown and green bottles, most of them also braai meat, hence a number of butcheries are also being built alongside, making a killing businesswise.

A trip to popular joints like Mereki in Harare, Guzha Shopping Centre, popularly known as Chikwanha in Chitungwiza and several shopping centres dotted around the high density suburbs throughout the country, including rural areas, reveals this rather unfortunate development. Residents in surrounding areas also complain of revellers who urinate in empty spaces.

Residents near these joints have also complained of the noise, the risks of sexual harassment of women and girls by drunkards, and invasion of these areas by sex workers.

The bottle stores thrive on selling opaque beer during the day and moving huge amounts of lagers and other booze at night and during the weekends.

Mai Tino, a vegetable vendor at Sunridge Shopping Centre, said shopping centres have now been turned into mini-beer malls and imbibers who drink in their cars and outside bottle stores are notorious for using foul language when drunk.

“The influx of so many liquor spots at shopping areas such as Sunridge Shopping Centre have actually chased away some of our customers who now avoid buying from vendors here.
“These bottle stores are too many and the people that frequent them have no respect for women. They can just start urinating in full view of people. It is this kind of behaviour that has made our business dwindle.

“If a child is sent to buy tomatoes and sees a man urinating in the open, they become afraid and return home or look for alternative places to buy,” Mai Tino said.

Lilian Mugauri, a bottle store owner in Dzivaresekwa said she got the idea to operate a bar from a friend who advised her that such business was very lucrative.

“Bottle stores are also relatively easier to run than other businesses because supply of alcohol is always there. No matter how cash-strapped people are, they will always buy beer. The profits may not be the same daily but you are guaranteed of a sale,” Mugauri said.

Another bar owner, King Mudede, of Chitungwiza said he opened a bottle store after receiving his package from his previous employer.

Mudede said the process of getting paperwork was not difficult because the building he uses was already suited for an establishment of that nature.

“There are enough toilets and supply of water to operate the business without running the risk of being called a health hazard,” he said.

At the time of going to press, the Harare City Council had yet to respond to why they have been allowing so many bottle stores to sprout in the city.

Harare West legislator Jessie Majome told the Weekend Post that such occurrence is because the liquor licensing board is not in place this has resulted in a breakdown in regulations and the rule of law which helps to fuel corruption.

She said this also shows how irresponsible and careless government is as they are now just trying to make money at the expense of society.

“Who is licensing and renewing these outlets when there is no board to regulate the liquor industry. Because of their lack of care they are overcrowding shopping centres with bottle stores and bars at the expense of other businesses such as supermarkets,” Majome said.

The parliamentarian said council could also be part of the syndicate as they issue an environmental health certificate in places that are questionable.

“Apart from the health implications, an influx in liquor outlets at shopping centres increases risks of sexual harassment of women and girls, produces a lot of noise and also fuels drug dealing.
“The liquor industry is now operating on auto-pilot because of the lack of a board to govern it. This has serious implications as it will result in chaos.

“We know that the economy is not functioning at its best but is alcohol the only commodity that people can sell? Residents should not be punished for the economic meltdown,” Majome said.— Hellen Kadirire

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