Covid-19 | 'It's unfair,' says restaurant industry as government imposes strict regulations

Restaurants and taverns are scrambling to respond to the government's directives on the sale of alcohol.
Restaurants and taverns are scrambling to respond to the government's directives on the sale of alcohol.
Image: Graham Oliver/

The restaurant industry says it does not have a clear picture of what exactly the newly gazetted alcohol curfew by the government in response to the coronavirus pandemic will entail for their operations.

Wendy Alberts, CEO of the Restaurants Association of South Africa (Rasa), said though they understood the need to curb the spread of the virus, the felt the restrictions were unfair.

“It’s a major problem for us because we are a responsible industry. We have been compliant, so this is harsh,” Alberts said.

She said at the moment the industry as a whole was in the dark about what exactly was expected of them.

Restaurants across the country are bound to lose about four hours of profitability as the government has gazetted new regulations which limit the sale, dispensing and transportation of liquor.

According to the gazette, all on-consumption premises such as taverns, restaurants and clubs must be closed with immediate effect or must not accommodate more than 50 people at any time. These type of establishments are also required to stop selling liquor between 6pm and 9am in the morning during the week until Saturday. And on Sunday and public holidays, they may only sell liquor until 1pm.

This has left a bitter taste in the mouths of the industry.

 “We don’t know [the full impact of] what it means because no-one communicated with us before the announcement,” Alberts said.

TimesLIVE has made contact with several restaurant groups who were not in an immediate position to give a comment or were still in the dark about the specifics.

A Cape Town fine dining restaurant group said this completely changed their business model, but they are up to the challenge.

“We have no choice but to keep up with the times. There’s always an opportunity in adversity. It’s still new but to avoid a harder knock on our business we are already looking at ways to stay in business during these hard times,” said a manager of the restaurant group which asked not to be named.

He said at the moment it was “chaotic” as they were still awaiting clarity from the government on what to do.

“Once we have the full picture we will know if we can roll out a delivery system where we can either drop the food off at the client’s house or prepare them [meals] and they quickly pick up.

“It also means we have to refine our menus and centre them on breakfast and lunch. Dinner was our best model, but we have to stay afloat,” he said, so they would do what was required under the regulations.

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