Eveline de Klerk
“We are receiving calls every day from people who desperately want to buy alcohol. We were sold out the first week after the lockdown. Our stock was bought out by our regular customers who were buying in bulk. We are empty,” said a bar owner selling alcohol backdoor in Eveline Street.
Eveline Street, which possibly has the largest concentration of shebeens per square-kilometre in Windhoek, is among the places where alcohol is sold back-door on the black-market to quench the thirst of city dwellers who cannot do without a glass of their favourite tipple such as the iconic Windhoek Lager – whether or not there is a lockdown.
The bar owner, who requested anonymity, told New Era he gets calls from people who want to buy liquor. The bar owner said he did not over price his clients, as they are his regular customers.
Despite the lockdown due to Covid-19 and prohibition of the sale of liquor, businesses have been selling backdoor.
But, some of the businesses hiked their prices of alcohol. New Era learnt that a 750ml of beer, which is normally sold for N$20, is currently being sold between N$30 and N$35, while a crate of beer is being sold for N$360, which is N$120 more than the normal price.
A six-pack of 330ml beer is sold for N$180. Ciders between 330ml and 500ml are all sold for N$25, while a 750ml Tassenberg (Punya-Punya) is being sold for N$80. Strong liquor (whisky) such as Jameson and Johnnie Walker are being sold for N$550, up from N$250 with a delivery fee of N$100.
A Greenwell Matongo resident, who regularly quenches his thirst with beer and requested for anonymity, said it is hard to source alcohol during this time of lockdown, as many bars and shebeens have run out of stock because the lockdown has severely disrupted their supply chain.
A bar owner, who also requested for anonymity lest he attracts the attention of the police, said they did not stock up because the first announcement was that they would operate from 10h00 to 18h00, but on 25 March, they were told there will be a shutdown.
“The changes are not fair but it is not a big deal; it is for own good,” said the bar owner, who said he is losing an income from his car wash as well.
Another shebeen owner along Eveline Street said they were also out of stock since the first week of the lockdown. He said he is only left with hot stuff, old brown sherry and 200 ml bottles of Zorba. “Beers are finished. We were selling for N$20. I heard later that fellow bar owners have hiked their prices.”
Some customers also cashed in when they heard they were selling for N$20: they bought and resold for N$30. He said on average he receives about seven to 10 calls from people looking for alcohol, although they are currently out of stock.
“Imagine a six-pack of any beer, which usually costs N$56, now costs N$185; a box of 4th Street wine normally selling for N$120 now costs between N$200 to N$300,” said one tippler who also requested not to be named.
She further told New Era that most people have found ways to hide their identity and location in fear of being caught by the police or being reported.
“Depending on where you live, the delivery is usually N$50 and they will personally deliver because they don’t want to allow many people to flock to their place of business. These guys are making money because they are receiving orders from all over,” said a woman under anonymity.
She also said that due to boredom, they are ordering almost every day but have to resort to drinks she does not usually consume. “I am a fan of ciders and beers but that is out of stock, so I have to drink whatever is there. What’s left is strong drinks like Vodka, Gin, Whisky and Brandy,” she said.
For the wine lovers, an Arabella bottle usually costing N$160 now costs more than N$200.
“I love wine and can’t resist, so I have no option but to pay for it, and bear in mind the N$200 is the cheapest because other wines are way more costly,” said another socialite who requested discretion.
A resident in Otjomuise, who was found with booze by New Era, said he bought the 750ml bottle of beer for N$35 each and that usually costs N$20. “Beer is almost out of stock at whoever we try to link up with, it is even going for N$40 in some places like Katutura and Klein Windhoek. I also bought this 4th Street for N$250,” he said.
At Walvis Bay, small bottles of Savanna Dry cost N$30 on the black market, while a bottle of 750ml of beer costs between N$40 and N$50. Normally, a 750ml bottle costs around N$20. A box of 4th Street that costs around N$130 costs N$300 on the black market at the coast. Other shebeen owners have created WhatsApp groups through which they also sell booze at exorbitant prices.
In the South, the price of Monis Granada has doubled from N$100 to N$200, a 750ml bottle of Windhoek Lager shot up from N$20 to N$30, a 750ml bottle of Richelieu Brandy sells for N$250 from N$140, while a bottle of White Horse has gone up from N$160 to N$300.
Many people have received fines of between N$2 000 and N$4 000 from the police for selling alcohol after the state of emergency which prohibits the sale of liquor was declared during this period, as all outlets are not allowed to trade because booze is among the commodities declared non-essential.