'It is decimating our industry' - Restaurant industry protests lockdown restrictions

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Business consultant Sushil Deva join’s in the restaurant industry’s 'million seats on the street' protest outside The Local Grill in Parktown North, Johannesburg.
Business consultant Sushil Deva join’s in the restaurant industry’s 'million seats on the street' protest outside The Local Grill in Parktown North, Johannesburg.
Nomvelo Chalumbira
  • President Cyril Ramaphosa reimposed the alcohol ban on 12 July.
  • Sean Barber, the founder of the Rockets chain of restaurants said the ban is annihilating the industry. 
  • The restaurant industry employs about 800 000 people.

South Africa restaurateurs protested on Wednesday against the curfew and alcohol ban, which they said were wrecking their industry.

President Cyril Ramaphosa imposed a lockdown in March, restricting movement and gatherings.

He loosened some of the restrictions in June, allowing restaurants to reopen, initially for take-out and then for sit-down dining.

But on 12 July, as infections surged, Ramaphosa brought back a night-time curfew that starts at 19:00, and banned afresh the sale of alcohol.

"What the government has put in place has been knee-capping," Sean Barber, the founder of the Rockets chain of restaurants, told AFP.

"It has literally wiped out our dinner trade. It's decimating our industry," he said.

ALSO READ | Over R300 million lost every day alcohol was first prohibited

Waving a placard with the inscription "JobsSaveLives", 32-year-old waiter Divine Moyo said "we are open, but normal is not the case".

Many patrons were still sceptical about dining out, but lockdown measures have added to the eateries' woes.

"It's just been quiet," lamented Moyo. "I'm going to bed hungry, my family is struggling".

In Cape Town, a city popular with tourists, restaurant owners laid out rows of empty tables and chairs along pavements or in the middle of streets in what they dubbed a "One Million Seats on the Streets" demonstration.

The industry employs an estimated 800 000 people.

Restaurant Association of South Africa CEO Wendy Alberts said nearly a third of restaurants had already shuttered since the onset of the lockdown and more closures were looming.

Her members want the government to urgently consider "lifting the liquor ban, having the curfew lifted", among other demands.

"We want them [the government] to consider just giving us a glass or two of wine with a main meal ordered. We want them to take the curfew away, [and] to allow us to just let our businesses to survive this," said Jo-Ann Hinis, the co-owner of Espresso cafe and bistro in Johannesburg.

Some of the placards carried during the protests read "SaveOurIndustry" and "No Booze, we all lose".

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