Establishing a Liquor Store

How to establish / open a liquor store in South Africa

PLEASE NOTE: We do not apply for liqour licensing on residential stands (at your house) - Click on Rights for further information.

The intention of this exercise is to assist the first time Liquor Store entrepreneur to note some factors which might influence his/her decisions when establishing a new Liquor store. The intention is NOT to give legal or financial advice. All information is available for the entrepreneur to use at his / her own discretion and risk and Frik Liebenberg Business advisory services cc does not except any responsibility whatsoever for losses which the entrepreneur may occur when using this information. This information is by no means comprehensive and must be adjusted to suit specific situations and to suit provinces other than Gauteng.

Opening a new Liquor Store is an exciting venture but not without risk. Before you jump in and start spending money on your new venture, stop and read these few pointers that may save you money and loads of frustration.
The question is often asked “Where do I start?

SAPS Clearance | Premises | SARS Clearance | Liquor Licence | Planning | Budget | Notes on Liquor Stores  

1. SAPS Clearance.

You need a SAPS clearance certificate confirming that you do not have a criminal record. This step can take up to six weeks, so start with this before you do the rest.

  • Take a copy of your I. D. document and R59.00 to your local SAPS during office hours.
  • Ask them to do your fingerprints for the purpose of an application for a Liquor License.
  • Once you have your fingerprints taken, hand the fingerprints together with your receipt of R59.00 and a copy of your I. D. document to:

The Criminal Records Centre, First floor, Bothong Plaza West Building, 271 Francis Baard Street, (Previously Schoeman Street) Pretoria and deliver the original Police clearance Certificate to our office or you can send us the original finger prints, copy of the receipt of R 59.00 per set of finger prints and a copy of the Identity Document/s and we will deliver it to Pretoria and arrange for collection at an additional cost of R 800.

2. Premises.

You need a premises before you can even apply for a Liquor License. The public area must not be less than 50m2. The ideal is that your premises is +500m or more from a church, school or similar business. However this is not always possible. Do not start spending money on renovating the existing building or start building a new building or sign a lease contract on the building before you have cleared the following:

  • Visit your local Municipality’s Town Planning or Land Use department and confirm with them that the premises or stand that you want to use are suitable for a Liquor Store. (You need the ERF number of your premises)
  • Request a Zoning certificate from the Municipality on the stand that you intend to use. Your Liquor License Consultant must be convinced that the zoning is correct. In Gauteng you need a Local Authority Approval (A letter confirming you may apply) for a Liquor Store in addition to the zoning certificate.
  • Negotiate a Lease Contract. If you are not the owner of the property then you require a lease contract between you and the landlord. Be careful when signing the lease contract. Read the conditions very careful, especially with regards to the following”
  • Escalation clause. This means the amount the rent will increase after every year. An annual escalation of up to 8% is acceptable in today’s economy. (Do not accept a 12% escalation clause for this is too high in today’s terms 2014.)
  • Right to renew. The renewal clause gives you the right to renew the lease contract after the expiry of the lease. There should be a % increase or a rand figure of the first year’s renewal increase in rent with an escalation clause for every year thereafter until the end of the renewed contract. The applicant is welcome to contact the writer for more information. (Do not accept a clause stating “The lessee has the right to renew the lease contract, without a clear stipulation of the cost of the lease after renewal.)

Note:  The monthly payments stipulated on the lease contract can be inflated by the lessor’s on-costs such as administration cost, security cost, cleaning cost, rates and taxes etc. Establish first what extra cost will be charged before you mak a dicision. A guideline on the influence of rent on the profitability of a Liquor store is that if the rent is in the region 10% or more of a liquor store’s turnover, you are paying too much rent which will inflate your overheads out of proportion. Keep your overheads as low as you can. If you do not achieve at least 11% net profit, then your overheads are too high. Back to top

3. SARS clearance.

Apply for your Tax clearance certificate at SARS. If the applicant is a juristic person such as a Company, the Tax Clearance must be in the name of the company otherwise the tax clearance certificate must be in the name of the applicant/s.

4. Liquor License.

  • Contact a reputable Liquor License Consultant to give you a quote clearly confirming all cost. Investigate the Liquor License consultant and ask for references. Make sure you know what is included and what is excluded in the quotation. Apply as soon as possible because a Liquor License Application can take a long time. (4-6 months or longer) You can apply on an existing premises or on a stand on which there is no building yet.

Your Liquor License Consultant will give you a list of requirements for a Liquor License Application.
Don’t attempt to do a DIY job on your Liquor License application unless you are fully familiar with all aspects of the Liquor Act. Section 23(3) of the Gauteng Liquor act reads: “Where an application for a license has been refused by the Board, no new application may be made in respect of the same premises within a period of one (one) year from date of refusal,........” If it takes six months before you receive a refusal from the board it means that you have wasted 18 months before you can apply again and then you might wait another 6 months before your application can be approved. That could mean 24 months which you might pay rent on an empty shop.Back to top

5. Start planning your shop

Decide on your target market. (High income, Medium income or Low income group). Your products that you will sell depends on this decision as well as the outlay and image of your shop. (We will assist you). For a Liquor Store you may decide on a self service or service counter shop. This depends on safety and security and income level of the area. A self service Liquor store will require much more starting- up stock than a service counter shop.

  • Pay attention to the condition and suitability of the shop’s floor. If it needs replacement, estimate the cost.
  • Painting and renovation the shop. Estimate the cost to paint and renovate.
  • Determine the security requirements and cost such as burglar bars, safety doors, alarm system, armed response and new locks for the shop (Don’t use the old locks. You don’t know how many keys are floating around.)
  • Design and estimate the cost of the signwriting and promotional material.

Decide on a Name and Logo and colours of the business. (Remember your business must “jump out in the street” It simply means that your business must not melt into the surrounding shops but stand out very clearly) You must be able to read the signwriting and advertisements at 60 km/hour. Rather write less than clutter the signboard with too much information.

  • The lighting of the shop is important. It must suit the required ambiance of the type of business you intend to operate. A dark Liquor store does not contribute to the image of an upmarket Liquor Store or any Liquor Store for that matter. Ensure that the lighting is bright white light.
  • Establish the suitability, quantity, safety and convenience level of the parking  for your customers..
  • Decide on your pricing strategy. Visit opposition shops and determine their prices. Find out from suppliers the cost price of your products. Decide on a price mark-up percentage. Pricing of single beers, quarts and “nips” are much higher than on bulk cases.

It is not a good strategy to be the cheapest in town and never start a price war!

  • Decide on your product strategy. The type of products you will sell depends on your target market’s income. Initially and before start up it is difficult to know for sure what products are fast movers, however you can talk to other dealers who are outside your influence area. Establish the fast moving stock and list them.

Unfortunately you can not only stock fast moving stock. Some stock should be kept as a service product to customers who are seeking alternative products. Your shop should be well stocked and must look successful. Do not allow partly stocked shelves but rather reduce the number of shelves. Keep them stocked to the brim. You can achieve this by moving your beverage coolers forward to reduce the initial floor space and removing some shelves.

  • Diversify. If you want to stock products other than liquor and smokers requisites, you need to apply to the liquor board to stock such items. Examples are rugby shirts, flags, biltong, braai equipment and other paraphernalia. 
  • Initially stock high priced items such as exclusive wines and whisky with care. Keep a low stock of it until you have established the demand for it.
  • Compile a Suppliers List with alternative suppliers. Your purchases can influence your profit margins dramatically. Shop around for better deals. Your relationship with your suppliers is critical. Try to line up alternative suppliers where possible. This should include refrigeration mechanics, electricians etc.

Some suppliers offer a percentage discount on bulk/case purchases. Buy all your fast moving stock from them. The slow moving stock can be purchased elsewhere and in smaller quantities.

  • Decide on an Employment Strategy. Many successful businesses have failed because of employees. Take note of the following:
  • Do not employ anybody to do the work that you can do.
  • Work out your budget and cash flow before you employ anybody. It is not fair to an employee if you inform them soon after you employed them that you can not afford them.
  • Do not trust anybody. Ensure strict financial an stock control. Do your own buying and stock control. Ensure that your employees have no access to the Point Of Sale systems manager’s files. You as the owner must enter all stock delivered into the computer program and NO staff member may have any access to that program.
  • Follow up the applicant’s previous employees and get a reference.
  • Follow up the applicant’s qualifications.
  • At least one male must be employed as a “customer service” person. He will assist the customers in finding their purchase required by the customer, but he is actually there to observe for shoplifters or security threats. He will be equipped with a remote panic button which is connected to an armed response alarm. A liquor store is less busy on Mondays than Fridays and Saturdays. You can plan the number of staff and their working hours accordingly.
  • Draw up disciplinary procedures for the employees. If an employee is found guilty of theft, do not only dismiss the person. Lay a criminal charge against that person and prosecute. Otherwise the person moves to a new liquor store and repeat the the same.   
  • Insurance cost. Some lease contracts requires the lessee to insure for shop- front windows and other breakages. Also insure the Stock and Equipment.
  • Register with the Receiver of Revenue such as Income Tax, Employees tax (PAYE), Value-added tax (VAT) if applicable, Unemployment Insurance Fund (U.I.F.)
  • Apply for a Business License (if applicable) at your local Municipality.
  • Appoint a registered accountant. Seek advice from your accountant on VAT registration and tax issues. You can save substantial amounts of money by using professionals.
  • Decide on your business hours and stick to it. Advertise it at the entrance of the shop. You should keep in mind the security aspect inside and outside the shop, and taking into account the surrounding shop’s closing times.
  • Decide on the legal entity of the business such as a Sole Proprietor, Company (Register the Company) or partnership (Draw up a partnership agreement).
  • Banking. Negotiate with different banks the Cash deposit fee charged by that bank. (Cash deposits can attract huge bank charges) then open an account.
  • Order your stock. There is a direct correlation between the stock holding and the turnover, but only up to a point. If you open a self service Liquor store and your stock is less than R150 000 to R200 000 (in 2014), then it is unlikely that your liquor store will survive. If you open a counter service liquor store then you can get away with R70 000 worth of stock. Decide on Minimum / Maximum stock levels and re-order levels of your stock.
  • Credit card machine. Negotiate with your bank for the installation of a credit card machine.
  • Before opening buy an advertorial in the local newspaper with opening specials. Limit the specials both by quantity and time period.
  • Ice sales can initially be achieved by selling ice purchased from suppliers. Once your business is established you can consider an ice making machine.
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6. Budget.

Work out a Budget. Without a Budget you can fail before you opened your doors. Remember to budget for the actual and hidden cost which are listed but not limited to the following:
  • Cost of the Liquor License Application.(± R13500 in 2014)
  • Cost of your first payment to the Liquor Board on approval of the Liquor License. ±R1500 in 2014)
  • Rent deposit.
  • First months rent in advance.
  • Cost of stock.
  • Electricity deposit.
  • Painting and renovating the shop.
  • Tiling the shop floor. (if required)
  • Lighting and wiring. (if required)
  • Burglar bars and safety gates.
  • Alarm system and camera system.
  • Signwriting.
  • Stationary, printing etc.
  • Cost of equipment, furniture and fittings plus installation.
  • Cost of electrical installation of equipment
  • Cost of Point of Sale system and software.
  • Plumbing. (if required)
  • Trading License.
  • Computers and software.
  • Employment contracts.
  • Cleaning material and equipment.
  • Transport. (initially you can survive with a trailer)
  • Cost of rent while waiting for the Liquor License.
  • Installation the alarm system
  • Installation the turnstiles.
  • Packaging material.
  • Telkom line.
If your business is in Gauteng order a sign with letter 50cm high for the front door which displays the following:
  • Name of Business.
  • Type of Liquor License (i.e. Restaurant)
  • Trading times of the Business.
  • Liquor License Number.
  •  Fire extinguishers.
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Some notes on a Liquor Store.

Make sure that the electrical distribution board of the shop you have decided to rent have the capacity to carry the electrical load of your equipment. Your lease contract may have a clause placing to onus on the tenant to ensure that the shop is suitable for your purpose. They will not rewire the electrical distribution board.

  1. Minors

    . Section 46 of the Gauteng Liquor act 2 of 2003. A licensee shall not sell or supply liquor on the premises to persons under the age of 18 years ...
  2. Intoxicated persons.

    Section 47 of the Gauteng Liquor act 2 of 2003. A licensee shall refuse to admit to the licensed premises or any part thereof, or sell or supply to an intoxicated person and shall have such person removed from the premises or any part thereof. (An intoxicated person is when his/her capabilities are so impaired by liquor that he/she is likely to cause injury to himself/herself or be a danger or nuisance or disturbance to others.
  3. No liquor may be consumed inside a Liquor Store

  4. Business Hours: Gauteng

    • Monday – Saturday 08h00 to 20h00.
    • Sunday 09h00 to 15h30
  5. Delivery of Liquor.

    • An original invoice of the order must be kept on the licensed premises.
    • A copy of the invoice must be inside the Vehicle.
    • The delivery address must be on the invoice.
    • If you deliver liquor, do not off-load after the prescribed hours i.e. 20h00 during week days. You can load you vehicle any time, but the time of off-loading is regarded as time of the sale taking place.
    •  Hint. -Do not transport Liquor that is not on an invoice or deliver to an address that is not on the invoice. Print the Name of your business as well as the Liquor License Number on the invoice.
  6. Bulk Sales.

    • A Liquor Store may only sell to the Public. Do not sell to any person in bulk which is greater than a reasonable person will buy for own consumption. Do not sell to unlicensed or licensed Shebeens.
  7. Weddings and functions.

    • A liquor store license does not allow you to set up a Bar at a function. A bar is an on-consumption license and a liquor store is an off-consumption license. Your license for off-consumption only covers your registered premises and within the constraints of your floor plan approved by the Liquor Board.
  8. If the Liquor License is in the name of a Company or Close Corporation.

    • If the license in in the name of a juristic person as mentioned above, a natural person must be appointed to Manage the liquor store. Contact your Liquor License consultant.
  9. If the License holder is not the person who is running the Liquor store on a day to day basis.

    • Then a natural person who is running the business on a day to day basis must be appointed as Manager
  10. Cash flow

    is very important. is very critical. Don’t buy anything except stock.

    Avoid “Nice to have” equipment and buy them when your shop is profitable. Many a profitable shop has closed down because the owner ran out of cash.
    Once your shop is profitable, save at least six months overheads and invest it in a sixty day account.

  11. Makro factor Influencing the Sales of a Liquor store

  12. As with all businesses there are distinct factors, which are out of your control, that influence the turnover of a Liquor store. If I may grossly generalize the following cycles may be observed in your liquor store.

    1. Weather. – The higher the temperature the higher the sale of beer and beverages. There is a distinct drop is beer sales during rainy and cold days.
    2. Sport. – Sport such as an important rugby match can influence your sales.
    3. Weekdays. – Generally Mondays are much slower than Friday or Saturday.
    4. Months. – Generally November and December are the busiest with February the slowest. Generally in autumn sales rise. Easter season will influence your sales dramatically and depending on which days of the week the public holidays are, you will have dramatically lower sales.
    5. Festive season. – This is the busiest part of the year. You need to order larger volumes of stock because most suppliers close over the festive season. Initially it will have a detrimental effect on you cash flow if you do not plan for that. You need to plan the fast moving stock such as beer. Again you can order a large quantity of beer for the festive season, and if it rains for three weeks, then in January you can be stuck with a large quantity of beer and a with a cash flow problem. The opposite is also true. If you order too little and run out of stock, you lose customers and sales!
    6. Time of day. Mornings are slower and it picks up at 16h00.
    7. Time of the month. From the 10th until the 20th of the month is usually slower than the rest of the month. But, if your target market is weekly paid customers, the scenario will change.
    8. Labour unrest can effect your business in that strikes reduce the expendable cash of your customers. It takes a striker months or years to recover financially after a strike. If the demonstrations are held in the vicinity of your shop, your sales come to a virtual standstill. This can be expected from June to September.
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Frik Liebenberg of Frik Liebenberg Business advisory Services cc 99/05522/23 has been a Business Broker since 1997 and a Liquor License Consultant since 2002. Feel free to contact us for further information.
Frik Liebenberg

Frik Liebenberg Business Advisory Services cc 99/05522/23

082 556 8368
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