The Squeaky Barrel Vol. 2 - Black Elephant Vintners

The Squeaky Barrel Vol. 2

24 August 2023

a wine barrel

Listing-fees: Something the Cape Can Do Without

The discomforting news that my beloved Dias Tavern restaurant has now fallen for the rip-off tactic of asking wineries to pay for the privilege of having their wines grace the restaurant’s wine-list, has led to another level of hate for the practice of charging listing-fees. This is now becoming all too common in the Cape, and my reasons for objecting to this extortion is well-documented here.

However, the current state of play in South Africa and the society of pay-offs, backhanders, bribery and corruption that meets us daily has me asking the question: Should Cape Town and the Western Cape, which prides itself on being the head-quarters of South African hospitality, dining and wining – and going to lengths to nurture its reputation as such – not seriously look at leading the way in squashing the listing-fee practise? For me, the glib acceptance of allowing restaurants to muscle cold cash from wineries in order the get a spot on the wine-list – whilst also making huge profit from wine mark-ups – is tasteless and seedy. And definitely not conducive to the Cape’s image as a welcoming and spirited provider of hospitality, nor as a great warm place to do business in.

I am by no means equating the hustling for restaurant listing-fees to illicit government tenders and the trough-feeding activities of family and friends of government officials. But the climate of underhanded financial procurement prevailing in the country’s national narrative does have one experiencing a bad, “here we go again” taste in the mouth when receiving another email from a restaurant asking you to donate R20 000 before one’s wine can appear on the wine-list. It is as if the wanton will of money-grabbing displayed in government spheres and the public sector has trickled down to private business in the hospitality domain. Should the ambience the Western Cape wishes to create as a relaxed, professional and ethical tourist mecca be allowed to be distorted by this shady listing-fee scenario?

A few years back, the wine industry endeavoured to gain legal advice as to whether listing-fees were not violating anti-competitive regulation, but subsequently they backed off. I think the time has come for the local DA government, that does a sterling job in recognising the importance of the hospitality sector, to take a look at this listing-fee scenario. Blatant cheap and opportunistic hustling from restaurateurs, which the procuring of listing-fees is, is a flavour the Cape could do without.

By Emile Joubert, The Wine Goggler