As Covid-19 cases in KwaZulu-Natal spiked by 30% in the past two weeks, Pietermaritzburg restaurant and pub owners who are being blamed for not complying with Covid-19 rules, have described the accusations as “grossly unfair”.
With government leaders attributing the current rise in KwaZulu-Natal’s Covid-19 cases largely on the failure of pubs and restaurants to implement Covid-19 safety measures, owners said the problem was much bigger than just booze.
Andile Mncibi, a manager at the popular braaivleis restaurant, Hlophe Butchery in West Street, blamed the general public’s attitude towards Covid-19 safety guidelines for the spike in infection.
“What we are experiencing, particularly here in Pietermaritzburg, is a general lack of compliance to Covid-19 guidelines.
“If you look outside on the streets you see people just walking up and down without putting on a mask and the police are doing nothing about it. While we are doing our best to ensure that people coming in wear masks, our task is being made difficult by the fact that the majority of people generally don’t like to wear them,” he said.
While the restaurant does not sell alcohol, people were previously allowed to consume liquor they had brought from outside.
However, to limit the risk of not complying with the Covid-19 rules due to the conduct of intoxicated customers, the restaurant no longer allows the consumption of liquor at its premises.
“This has helped us a lot because most of the customers now prefer to come in just for the meat and then walk out either to their cars or to the nearby pubs,” Mncibi said.
Liquor outlets and restaurant owners found themselves under scrutiny after 63 matric pupils were infected with Covid-19 after attending a party at a Cape Town bar early this month.
However, Gui Weng, the owner of Pietermaritzburg’s popular night club, Afro-Asian, at the corner of Pietermaritz and Chapel streets, said incidents such as the one in Cape Town were unavoidable given the nature of the liquor business.
“As much as we appreciate government’s decision to allow businesses like ours to reopen, we find ourself in a tricky situation as we can’t insist that customers should wear a mask all the time.
“Frankly speaking, while I’m grateful that the unbanning of liquor sales has allowed employees to put food on the table, I think it would have been much better had the government only allowed people to only sell takeaways,” he said.
Dave Dixon, the owner of Gudgies Shisanyama, a pub and braaivleis restaurant in Boshoff Street, said the conduct of customers had made it easier for the business to comply with all Covid-19 guidelines.
“When customers come in they get sanitised and have their temperature taken. They then sit at tables which are arranged in such a manner that there is adequate social distancing.
“Even though it has been a tough six months business is slowly picking up and we are optimistic about the future,” he said.