Gallery Update Video
GEORGE NEWS & VIDEO - "Shutting out alcohol sales and a curfew is telling us to reopen with our hands tied behind our back," says Massimo Mariotti, owner of Salina's Beach Restaurant in Wilderness.
His restaurant was one of several establishments in the George area taking part in the '1 Million Seats on the Street' protest yesterday, Wednesday 22 July, in an outcry against the reinstatement of the total liquor ban and curfew announced by President Ramaphosa on 12 July.
The demonstration is an initiative of the Restaurant Association of South Africa (Rasa), which is doing everything possible to ensure the survival of the industry that has been hit hard by the extended lockdown. Some restaurants have made a cautious start after being permitted to open for sit-down meals, although still under an on-site liquor ban.
A number of restaurants in George and Wilderness have closed down permanently, including Pure Craft & Foods, Kaaimans Restaurant and Flava Café. Cocomo and The Girls on the Square in Wilderness are closed but hope to reopen later.
Locals Pub & Diner owner Deon Massyn said he closed down his business and is starting over in Hoekwil under a new name. The Views Boutique Hotel and Restaurant have temporarily closed, but the beauty emporium is open. Wilderness Hotel is temporarily closed.
As part of the protest in Wilderness, Eatz2Go, Salina's, The Blue Olive and Blind Pig, who are all still operating, have banded together and in support, individuals stood with empty chairs along the N2.
In the George CBD, The Old Townhouse Restaurant in Market Street as well as 101 Meade and other coffee shops in Meade Street had chairs out on the pavements.
Said Old Townhouse co-owner Janet Loopstra, "Without brandy and wine, we can't even make all our recipes. Our suppliers - the wine merchants and small local food suppliers - are all suffering and we have their support."
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Loopstra said with the nightly curfew from 21:00 and load shedding on top of the lockdown, it is impossible to operate. "This while shebeens and the illegal trade are thriving at inflated prices and taxis are driving around with full loads.
"At the Townhouse each of our nine employees has two or three children, and four of the employees are the breadwinners in their household. They receive full pay while they are working 50% hours, but we won't be able to keep it up under these circumstances."
101 Meade owner Jeremy Gibbs said the regulations have put the Garden Route hospitality industry in jeopardy.
"We must get our voices out there. The regulations are killing us, also our small local suppliers who are dependent on us. Our employees' careers are being wiped out."
Mariotti said Salina's has managed to reopen with 19 out of the 48 staff members. They are working reduced hours. "The hospitality industry in the Garden Route was already weak before Covid-19 struck and the consequence of the prolonged lockdown has been the final nail for many businesses. We will only really know the true destruction in a few months, as businesses try to reopen. The fact is, without the national and international travellers, the Garden Route cannot sustain the limited business from the Western Cape."
Roxanne Bloem, owner of Flava Café, said she has incorporated Flava with her other restaurant, Eatz2Go which has done only takeaways, but now also offers sit-down meals. The Girls on the Square, which she also owns, will reopen when the liquor ban is lifted, hopefully by September / October.
Bayleaf Café owner Quinton Hewitt said after reopening on 6 July they have been doing okay. "Business is not fabulous, but we are ticking over. I think it will pick up as time goes by. Our staff are glad to be back."
Letter to President
In an attorney's letter to President Ramaphosa dated 20 July, Rasa asks for the sale and distribution of alcohol to all restaurants with a valid liquor licence, with a ban only applied in areas identified as hotspots for alcohol-related trauma. They also propose that restaurants must ensure that with any purchase of alcohol, a main meal must be ordered and that drinks are limited to two per meal. While lockdown is in effect, the legal drink-driving limit should also be reduced to zero.
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