WATCH | Members of the restaurant industry take to the streets in protest

  • Several affiliates of the restaurant industry gathered to protest lockdown regulations in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
  • The picket, which was organised by Restaurants Association of South Africa (RASA), called for the unbanning of the sale of alcohol and the lifting of the 21:00 curfew. 
  • A memorandum of the sector's demands was handed over to Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane.

Several streets in Johannesburg were abuzz on Wednesday as workers in the restaurant industry gathered to protest against the lockdown regulations.

"We are asking Mr Ramaphosa and the Cabinet to please help us … we are really on our knees. We need support and we have had very little. We employ a lot of people ... we are asking for the help that was promised in the beginning. Our staff to date have not received UIF, which is crazy," Steve Maresch, the owner of The Local Grill, told News24. 

Owners, staff and patrons are appealing to the government to further relax lockdown regulations after they were only allowed to reopen at a limited capacity last month.

"This morning, I got a WhatsApp from one of my guys - showing me their furniture out on his pavement. What can I do? As a restaurant owner, what I do for one, I have to do for everybody, so it makes it very difficult," Maresch said. 

READ | More than R300 million lost every day alcohol was first prohibited

Unexpectedly, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the reinstatement of the alcohol ban as well as the nationwide curfew on Sunday.

"Not being able to sell alcohol is really detrimental to our business. For a restaurant like ours, it amounts to 40% of our turnover … the impact is just so intense. That would be one of our requests [to sell alcohol again]," said Maresch.

The curfew has also created another hurdle for the industry. Several restaurants have had to close their doors earlier, to ensure they do not break the 21:00 curfew.

Hardship

"We have had 20 weeks of hardship. It's been emotional for many restaurants, their doors are closed, they don't have access to funding, finance is a problem, landlords are still problematic, insurance companies are very treacherous, they still haven't paid out on the luxury policies restaurants have," Restaurants Association of South Africa (RASA) CEO Wendy Alberts told News24. 

As a result of growing frustrations, Alberts and her team drafted a memorandum that outlined ways the government could save the restaurant industry.

The document was later given to Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane who told News24 there had been continuous engagements with owners since the lockdown came into effect.

"We had to work hard in partnership with the private sector to able to see how we can get the sector back into active life. Obviously, a number of things are not going the way we wanted," she said. 

However, Kubayi-Ngubani urged restaurants to be vigilant with following the regulations because non-compliance would further delay the full reopening of the sector.

"I fight with [Wendy Alberts] when I see some level, even if it's one video of non-compliance in the sector by the restaurant. 

"I ask questions because once there's something like that it makes it difficult for those of us sitting around the table to converse and to argue on behalf of the sector. I will definitely pass both of these to my colleague Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and also to the president," she added. 

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