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Following the recent protests of businesses from the restaurant and hospitality industries countrywide minister of tourism, Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, announced the easing of lockdown regulations on Thursday, 30 July, in her online media briefing.

“To comply with the current curfew regulation, restaurants are unable to serve dinner to their customers which means that they are unable to operate at peak time of their business day. In response to this challenge, Cabinet has agreed to move the curfew to start at 22:00 [and no longer at 21:00] to allow for uninterrupted dinner service at restaurants. We believe that this change will go a long way towards increasing their revenue generation,” Kubayi-Ngubane said in her online media briefing.

Kubayi-Ngubane added that individuals will now be allowed to “leave their homes for leisure purposes within the province where they currently live”, but not “to travel between provinces for leisure purposes”. The Minister added that these regulations would come into effect as soon as it is gazetted, which took place on 31 July.

The announcement came after dozens of employees in the hospitality and restaurant industry in Stellenbosch, and thousands of employees countrywide, held demonstrations on 22 July in order to protest the South African lockdown regulations affecting the tourism and restaurant industry. 

The demonstrations formed part of the countrywide “Million Seats on the Streets” protest and was an initiative created by the Restaurant Association of South Africa (RASA). Various restaurants and hotels made posters stating how the lockdown regulations affected them. Some of the protest posters read “#JOBSSAVELIVES/ = 1 JOB SUPPORTS MY/ FAMILY OF 5”, “NO DOP/ NO JOB”, “NO SHIFTS/ MEANS/ NO TIPS #jobssavelives” and “EAT/ OR/ WE BOTH/ STARVE #SPEK&BONE #DEVRIJEBURGER #JOBSSAVELIVES”.

A memorandum, posted on the Facebook group of RASA and compiled by Wendy Alberts, RASA CEO, and Ashton Naidoo, lawyer at the law firm Mooney Ford Attorneys, was handed over to the National Coronavirus Command Council (NCCC) on Friday, 24 July. The memorandum requested that the sale and distribution of alcohol should be lifted, the curfew should be moved from 21:00 to 22:00 for “restaurant staff to be allowed to move after curfew with a permit” and that the 1.5 meter spacing between patrons should be removed.

According to Mike Ratcliffe, chairman of Stellenbosch Wine Routes and organiser of the protest in Stellenbosch, the reason for the protest was to “peacefully protest the rationality of the lockdown regulations propagated by the minister and also to the support their court challenge which they put in on Monday”.

Ratcliffe says the ideal outcome of the protest was to add more pressure to the government so the alcohol ban would be lifted. He adds that the protest was also “for people having a hard time to feel that they are not alone and that they have the whole town and whole tourism and restaurant industry standing next to them”. 

According to Nina Daniels, General Manager at the Oude Werf Hotel, “a lot of [their] staff and families are suffering at home”. They have had to retrench about 30 staff members, she said. 

“We have started the process of voluntary retrenchment and consultations this week, because we just don’t have enough income to cover the expenses of keeping our staff. We are hoping that business picks up so we can bring our staff back. Let’s hope the government takes us seriously and realises the importance of the hospitality industry to the growth of the economy,” said Daniels.

According to Veronique Engel, office admin of Neil Sauls Fresh Produce, a company that provides fresh produce to restaurants, the agricultural sector is also affected as a result of the lockdown regulations and the impact it has on the restaurant industry.

“If the restaurants are closed, we do not have work. Hopefully they can give more freedom to the restaurants, maybe serve wine in the restaurants so that it is worth it for people to go out. Now that alcohol is banned it makes the economic effect worse, because how do you take your girlfriend or boyfriend to a restaurant without a glass of wine? It is not about the alcohol, it is about the job loss resulting from the alcohol industry because restaurants have a loss of clients,” Engel said.

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