Does Your Shebeen Have The Correct Licence?

Is your shebeen within the law?
The original definition of shebeen was an illicit bar or club where alcohol was sold without a licence. The word in fact derives from the Irish ‘síbín’ and is not an African word at all, but in South Africa we have definitely made shebeens our own. Nowadays they are mostly owned by men rather than the ‘shebeen queens’ of the past, and many are legitimate bars fully complying with licensing law. But there are many more that are operating outside of the law.
In fact, research suggests that as many as three quarters of shebeens do not hold the correct liquor licence. According to the Western Cape Liquor Act of 2008, anyone wishing to sell, manufacture or distribute liquor is required by law to have a liquor licence. Operating without a licence is a serious offence, and could result in a heavy fine, closure of the premises, or even a criminal record.  And a previous offence of selling without a licence can jeopardise the chance of a licence being granted in future.
Types of Liquor Licence
Liquor licences fall into two main categories:
•    On Consumption Liquor Licence – requiring all liquor sold on the premises to be consumed on site and not taken off the premises. In other words, no take-aways
•    Off Consumption Liquor Licence – requiring liquor sold on the premises to be removed before consumption
There are exceptions within these broad categories: for example a retail wine shop may host a tasting of wines in-store; and there may be circumstances in which take-aways can be purchased at an establishment with an On Consumption licence. But for general purposes a shebeen owner must hold an On Consumption Liquor Licence from the Western Cape Licensing Authority (WCLA). It is the licensee’s responsibility to ensure that the business operates within the rules of the licence. So if you have an On Consumption licence and your customer wants to buy unopened bottles of beer to take home, you are breaking the law if you make the sale.
Applying for a Liquor Licence
If you would like to apply for a liquor licence you must:
• Be in good standing with SARS
• Have no criminal record
• Be solvent
• Be over 18 years of age
In addition to verifying your personal standing you must include the following documentation in your application:
•    A detailed floor plan of the premises, showing the dimensions of each room, where liquor will be stored on the premises, as well as the streets and places where there is external access
◦    A site plan showing an outline of every business within the vicinity of your premises
◦    Details of any other licensed premises on the property
◦    A description of the property, including colour pictures
◦    A copy of your identity document
Applying for a liquor licence is time-consuming and interpreting complex legislation is a specialist skill. But failing to understand the law is no defence if you break it! Placing your liquor licence in the hands of a lawyer experienced in licensing law will ensure your application is correctly lodged and is not rejected on a technicality. You can rest assured you will secure the right licence for your business and you will have the confidence of knowing that you are operating legally.
Don’t risk it
Running an illegal shebeen or bar is not worth the risk. Money saved on licensing costs is a false economy. A fine could cost you many times the legal fees you will spend to be properly licensed. For help and advice in applying for or renewing your liquor licence, speak to Simon on 087 550 2740 or email



The information on this website is provided to assist the reader with a general understanding of the law. While we believe the information to be factually accurate, and have taken care in our preparation of these pages, these articles cannot and do not take individual circumstances into account and are not a substitute for personal legal advice. If you have a legal matter that concerns you, please consult a qualified attorney. Simon Dippenaar & Associates takes no responsibility for any action you may take as a result of reading the information contained herein (or the consequences thereof), in the absence of professional legal advice.