- Melville's popular restaurant Pablo Eggs Go Bar is closing down.
- The area's iconic 7th street has been eerily quiet during the lockdown, with a number of restaurants facing closure.
- Owners Louis Roux and Leigh Hofmeyr-Roux remain hopeful that they may open again in future.
This week foodies, hipsters, brunchers and bar hoppers gathered on social media to mourn the loss of Johannesburg's Shakshuka heaven, Pablo Eggs Go Bar.
The restaurant is one of many that have had to shut their doors during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tucked on a corner of 7th Street in Melville, the breakfast concept bar was the place to go for a quick hangover breakfast, a business meeting, or a long brunch.
Pablo Eggs Go Bar fitted right into its home in the iconic street, with its mix of eclectic thrift stores, secondhand furniture shops and informal traders.
But the street was eerily quiet on Friday, an otherwise typically busy day, when patrons would be rushing to a post-work bar hop with their friends.
Sitting on its corner, Pablo Eggs Go Bar was stripped bare of its retro décor, its tables where many people sat to share drinks or have meetings.
Earlier in the week, the restaurant's co-owners, Louis Roux and Leigh Hofmeyr-Roux, announced that the popular restaurant would be closing down.
"We don't entirely know who is going to be left in the wake of this, everything is just so unpredictable. People who are working now want to weather the storm with us and they understand if we can't pay them what they were earning or even half of that.
'We will rise again'
"They are willing to give it a go because the day will come when we rise again," said Roux.
Roux and Hofmeyr-Roux opened the bar to rave reviews in 2016, with customers standing patiently in a queue outside on some days, waiting for a chance to dig into their choice of unique meals.
At its height, the restaurant had about 40 employees, made up of permanent staff and trainees.
But the scene at the restaurant has been starkly different since the lockdown began in March.
In April, the restaurant raffled artworks from its boutique hotel, Pablo House, as well as Pablo Dos Manos, a restaurant that caters to the hotel's residents.
"We went from a 96% occupancy rate [at Pablo House] and, after [President Cyril] Ramaphosa's speech, we went down to zero. And we lost R2 million to R3 million in the coming months, in bookings," said Roux.
The three businesses had operating costs of up to R800 000 a month and the Pablo Eggs Go Bar was not breaking even during Level 3, when restaurants had a partial reopening.
But Roux remains hopeful for the future and the road ahead.
No room for nostalgia
As for having to close the beloved breakfast bar, he said: "Unfortunately, I can't be swallowed up by the nostalgia and the dream that I have."
The breakfast bar could make a comeback with the right deal from a landlord or another backer.
"We are building relationships at the moment and, when the timing is right, I will make a decision on whether or not I believe it's a calculated risk to build a partnership and make a deal; that we have another shot," Roux said.
Just down the road from Pablo Eggs Go Bar, another restaurant owner, who did not want to be named for fear of intimidation, said he would not be able to continue with skeleton staff and minimal visitors, and may have to close down in the next two months.
The restaurant owner said 70% of his neighbours had shut their doors until the lockdown is lifted, and he was unsure whether or not they would come back.
The restaurant closures mark an end for Melville's iconic 7th Street, which had reached viewers on-screen through the popular soapie 7de Laan.
Wendy Alberts, CEO of the Restaurant Association of South Africa, said the industry has been decimated, with hundreds of restaurants around the country having to shut down.
The industry has been urging the government to lift the lockdown.