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Fears alcohol restrictions will fuel panic

March 25, 2020
By Alana House

Retail Drinks Australia has expressed concerns that Western Australia has jumped the gun with its alcohol restrictions, making it difficult to co-ordinate a national response.

Retail Drinks CEO Julie Ryan said: “We are disappointed with the WA Government’s decision to put in place retail limits without proper consultation with the packaged drinks industry.”

According to Ryan members of the drinks industry are currently in discussions with the Federal Government regarding national restrictions being put into place, using recommendations from the industry on how to best implement these measures.

The AHA has also voiced its disappointment, with AHA (WA) CEO Bradley Woods noting: “So far the hospitality industry has been hit with a massive tourism industry shutdown, domestic shut-down of food and beverage services on-premise and now a restriction on sales, all of which are imposing devastating harm on our industry.

“It is critical that venues can maintain take-away trade and delivery services to minimise job losses and cater to genuine community needs.”

The WA government has enforced a 2.25 litre limit on wines, which is three standard 750 ml bottles. However, cask wine packaging comes in 2,3, 4 or 5 litre formats, so immediately all retailers in WA will be unable to retail cask wines beyond the 2 litre size. The 4 and 5 litre cask wine cannot be sold and stocks will need to be destroyed if these restrictions are not lifted.

“The restriction on beer, cider and premix is 11.25 litres, which is a carton (24 bottles) of drinks in the 500ml size,” Ryan noted. “However, the majority of beer cases are made up of 330ml bottles or cans, and one case makes up 7920 mml, which means many customers will look at adding bottles to this purchase to ‘use up’ the entire limit.”

“We have no issue with the Government’s attempts to mitigate any harmful effects arising from alcohol abuse during the current crisis, however we believe that the limits as they stand will be cumbersome to execute and will potentially put our teams at risk.

“The limits are complex to calculate, will lead to delays in processing of transactions, and we are genuinely concerned will unnecessarily spark panic buying. All of these outcomes are counterproductive to social distancing.”

Concerns the new measures will lead to aggression in stores

Ryan said the WA Government has created alcohol restrictions that are very difficult to implement.

“These complicated limits will put immense pressure on our already strained teams and it will slow down the purchasing process for customers.

“We are concerned that this will lead to anger and aggression from customers towards staff – similar to the behaviour we have seen in the supermarkets.

“Furthermore, we are deeply concerned that these measures will lead to panic buying. In WA, we believe these limits will see customers travelling between different retail outlets to buy alcohol. Outside of WA, when customers are made aware of the restrictions that have been enforced in WA, we believe that they will – in fear that other states will follow – start panic buying.

“Due to the lack of consultation and notice some major retailers have also been forced to suspend online orders for all WA customers. They will not be able to be turned back on until systems have been modified to be compliant with limits.

“We are happy to work with regulators on retail limits, and we would encourage them to use the industry’s input and recommendations to put in place simpler limits that can be executed on a national level.

“We want to emphasise to consumers that for so long as breweries, wineries and distillers are allowed to continue to manufacture responsibly and in line with social distancing rules, that there is sufficient supply of alcohol for all Australians.”

Woolworths introduces alcohol restrictions

BWS and Dan Murphy’s have implemented national alcohol restrictions on the amount of alcohol people can buy.

Endeavour Group told suppliers on Monday: “We are encountering unprecedented and increasing customer demand across our stores and online channels.

“Given this, it is now more important than ever that we work together to get your products to our stores to meet this demand.”

Dan Murphy's panic buying; alcohol restrictions

“To ensure everyone can access the drinks they love we are placing temporary restrictions on the amount of products available for purchase per customer per day,” Dan Murphy’s said on its website.

“These are subject to change at any time and we reserve the right to cancel items from your order if they are exceeding our limits or our ability to supply.”

Restrictions include a maximum of three casks of wine, beer, cider or premixed drinks, a maximum of six bottles of spirits and 18 bottles of wine.

The limits apply per customer, per day.

“To ensure there is enough for everyone, there is now a per customer, per shop limit on all beer, wine & spirits, in store and online,” BWS said online.

A limit of four cases of beer, premixed drinks and cider applies at BWS, as well as a purchase limit of four bottles of spirits, three casks or 12 bottles of wine.

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