Following the introduction of limited opening hours for places that sell alcohol (including shebeens, bars and licensed restaurants), police minister Bheki Cele said that restaurants may stay open after 18:00 – as long as they don’t sell alcohol.
On Wednesday, government gazetted strict new rules as part of the Disaster Management Act, which read that all “on-consumption premises” selling liquor (bars, shebeens and licensed restaurants) must be closed between 18:00 and 09:00 the next morning on weekdays and Saturdays; and from 13:00 on Sundays and public holidays.
But Cele told a media briefing on Thursday that licensed restaurants will still be allowed to sell food after 18:00 if they have a maximum of 50 people on their premises (this includes staff).
According to the new regulations, on-consumption premises selling liquor, including shebeens, bars, restaurants and clubs are not allowed to have more than 50 people at the same time at any time - or they must be closed with immediate effect.
He stressed that during the national state of disaster it is illegal for anyone to sell alcohol outside the stated hours.
The new regulations were issued without consultation with the industry, says Wendy Alberts, CEO of the Restaurant Association of South Africa (RASA). A number of restaurant and bar owners told Fin24 that the restrictions could mean the end of their business.
RASA has clarified with the department of tourism that restaurants can keep to their normal trading hours if they don’t sell alcohol after 18:00 (and 13:00 on Sundays).
Restaurants also won’t allow people to bring their own alcohol to consume after 18:00, she added. Alberts said the industry won’t seek loopholes to circumvent the new regulations, but want to act responsibly and help “flatten the curve” amid the coronavirus crisis.
A government statement on Friday clarified that no alcohol may to be consumed at, or near any premises selling liquor and any public spaces outside of the prescribed hours.