PICS: Restaurant owners, workers take to the streets to highlight plight

Restaurant owners across the country expressed their frustrations about the lockdown regulations by placing empty seats and tables outside their establishments yesterday.

The peaceful protest was organised by the Restaurant Association of South Africa (Rasa) in light of the stringent lockdown restrictions, including the reinstatement of the alcohol ban and curfew. Many restaurants were allowed to reopen for sit-down meals, but the alcohol ban was causing job losses and many businesses to shut their doors until the lifting of the ban.

The Citizen spoke to restaurant owners and staff in Melville about how the lockdown restrictions were affecting them. Mthobisi Tshabalala, a waiter at De la Crème Cafe, said he was depending on tips to make commission because he did not receive a basic salary. He said without the sale of alcohol, there were barely customers in the restaurant.

“I started working at the cafe last year in August. It has been really difficult to make ends meet since the return of the alcohol ban because most customers come out to enjoy a drink rather than a meal. If there is no alcohol sold, there are no customers.

“We are requesting government to allow the sale of liquor so we can serve wine and beer at our restaurants,” Tshabalala said.

Lonely Hearts Club manager Ricky Mutangana said he had to let 12 of the staff members go because they were working on a rotation schedule which required a minimum amount of manpower.

“The alcohol ban has been weighing heavy on our pockets,” he said.

“I have staff who are bartenders who have not been able to work since March. We don’t have a say in the implementation of rules, which is not fair because the way we are expected to operate has affected our turnover very badly. If only government could allow booze to be sold in small quantities, allowing a minimum amount per table, then we would maybe reach turnover again.”

Rasa chief executive officer Wendy Alberts said the association remained optimistic for the industry to operate at 100% capacity again. She said a memorandum was handed over to the tourism industry and the Presidency which included comprehensive research information about the health guidelines for the industry to operate within the Covid-19 protocols.

“It’s a critical time for the industry. We have shown compliance to every element government has put before us, but we are not coping.

“Our well-thought-through health guidelines are in the interest of both the staff and the customer. We are the connecting tool in the tourism industry and operating at 100% will also boost the economy and other sectors,” Alberts said.


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