IN PICTURES | Restaurants are limping, says industry as it hits the streets in protest

22 July 2020 - 18:09 By Kgaugelo Masweneng and Shonisani Tshikalange
Chefs, waiters, winery workers, hoteliers and tourism operators protest in Cape Town’s CBD on July 22 2020. Many in the industry have lost their jobs and income due to the lockdown and curfew regulations.
Chefs, waiters, winery workers, hoteliers and tourism operators protest in Cape Town’s CBD on July 22 2020. Many in the industry have lost their jobs and income due to the lockdown and curfew regulations.
Image: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES​

The restaurant industry took to the streets on Wednesday to compel the government to allow alcohol sales for licensed sit-down restaurants.

The industry also wants government to push the curfew back from 9pm to 10pm, and to resolve delays in UIF and TERS payouts.

For several weeks, the industry has been at loggerheads with government, particularly over the banning of alcohol, which forms a crucial part of their revenue.

200m long empty table with a 1000seats in Wellington, Cape Town to raise awareness of the job losses and income within the tourism industry due to the lockdown​ and curfew regulations.
200m long empty table with a 1000seats in Wellington, Cape Town to raise awareness of the job losses and income within the tourism industry due to the lockdown​ and curfew regulations.
Image: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES

Grace Harding, spokesperson for The Restaurant Collective, said it was clear that its members were tired of the ban and how it affected their livelihoods.

“People are fed up and feel they have to do something. Things are going badly because people are not yet excited to go out. Unemployment means a lot of the population cannot afford restaurants. There is no support to help the industry. The sit-down restaurants are worst affected. A lot of what’s going on is no-one’s fault,” Harding said.

Chefs, waiters, winery workers, hoteliers & tourism operators protest for #JobsSaveLives in Cape Town’s CBD. Many in the industry lost their jobs and income due to the lockdown and curfew regulations. July 2, 2020.
Chefs, waiters, winery workers, hoteliers & tourism operators protest for #JobsSaveLives in Cape Town’s CBD. Many in the industry lost their jobs and income due to the lockdown and curfew regulations. July 2, 2020.
Image: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES​

On Wednesday, members of the industry, particularly in Cape Town, convened under the social movement #JobsSavesLives.

Harding said that in the next 12 months, most businesses will not make any profit.

“At least 70% have had to retrench employees to save costs, and 40% have not received any form of government loan or support. Sit-down restaurants are limping since opening on June 29. Most are trading below 50% of usual turnover. This loss of cash flow has depleted businesses and individuals of any reserves, and timing is now critical.

“Without immediate action, these losses are likely to be permanent,” Harding said.

Police move tables and chairs from the street as chefs, waiters, winery workers, hoteliers and tourism operators protest for #JobsSaveLives in Cape Town’s CBD on July 22 2020.
Police move tables and chairs from the street as chefs, waiters, winery workers, hoteliers and tourism operators protest for #JobsSaveLives in Cape Town’s CBD on July 22 2020.
Image: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES

Mandla Fakude, a manager at Basement Shisanyama in Atteridgeville, said he supported the peaceful protest.

“Many of our employees are sitting at home and we have to assist them every month. When it is like this it is difficult because we must pay rent, but we are not making much. The alcohol business has been closed; only the butchery is operating. Business is down,” he said.

Chefs, waiters, winery workers, hoteliers and tourism operators protest for #JobsSaveLives in Cape Town’s CBD on July 22 2020.
Chefs, waiters, winery workers, hoteliers and tourism operators protest for #JobsSaveLives in Cape Town’s CBD on July 22 2020.
Image: ESA ALEXANDER/SUNDAY TIMES

The 49-year-old said about 18 full-time employees were sitting at home.

“Most of them come asking for help at the end of the month. Some are even struggling to pay their rent,” Fakude said.

The restaurant industry called for one million seats placed on the streets around South Africa on July 22 2020 to protest lockdown regulations.
The restaurant industry called for one million seats placed on the streets around South Africa on July 22 2020 to protest lockdown regulations.
Image: ALON SKUY/SUNDAY TIMES

Fakude said he applied for relief from UIF, but it was a long process which didn’t yield any success.

“It’s difficult because there are many people who are in this industry of alcohol and many of us depend on this business to support our families. It’s a lot of people struggling because of this.”

Restaurant workers protest in Parkhurst, Johannesburg, on July 22 2020. The restaurant industry called for one million seats placed on the streets around South Africa to protest lockdown regulations.
Restaurant workers protest in Parkhurst, Johannesburg, on July 22 2020. The restaurant industry called for one million seats placed on the streets around South Africa to protest lockdown regulations.
Image: ALON SKUY​

He said that if the ban on alcohol was not lifted soon, the business wouldn't survive.

“Many families will suffer as we are suffering now, and it will be worse than this,” he said.

Restaurant workers protest in Norwood, Johannesburg, on July 22 2020. The restaurant industry called for one million seats placed on the streets around South Africa to protest lockdown regulations.
Restaurant workers protest in Norwood, Johannesburg, on July 22 2020. The restaurant industry called for one million seats placed on the streets around South Africa to protest lockdown regulations.
Image: ALON SKUY

Mozambik restaurant co-founder Brett Michielin said he hoped that President Cyril Ramaphosa was watching and taking note of the protests.

“What I want to see is some real action. Come and see what the lockdown regulations have done to the industry, to entrepreneurs, and to jobs. Do not take a view from an ivory tower, Mr President. Uzibonele ['see for yourself'],” he said.

Restaurant workers protest in Norwood, Johannesburg, on July 22 2020. The restaurant industry called for one million seats placed on the streets around South Africa to protest lockdown regulations.
Restaurant workers protest in Norwood, Johannesburg, on July 22 2020. The restaurant industry called for one million seats placed on the streets around South Africa to protest lockdown regulations.
Image: Alon Skuy

Michielin said that many of the regulations and guidelines governing financial assistance during this period, from government, caused more damage than good.

“We all understand the challenges that Covid-19 has placed on society, business and government. We are all quite situationally aware and always have the wellness of our staff, customers, and fellow South Africans as a priority. The entire industry has gone to significant lengths to ensure this. But we also need to provide for our staff and families.  

“I don’t pay taxes to listen to Sunday night speeches that point fingers and continue to erode our livelihoods as South Africans. I pay taxes to fund a government that should be serving the people and ensuring the wellness of everyone, especially the destitute,” added Michielin.

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