Hospitality industry devastated by new regulations, calls for relief

By Siphelele Dludla Time of article published Mar 20, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - The Hospitality industry is reeling with shock after the government implemented unprecedented guidelines restricting operating hours and the number of patrons at bars and restaurants, according to the South African Restaurant Association, a lobby organisation for restaurants.

SA Restaurant Association chief executive Wendy Alberts said yesterday that the industry was disappointed by the regulations as it was responsibly observing international standard hygiene guidelines and practices.

Alberts said there were a lot of unanswered questions and uncertainty in the industry over these regulations since there was no consultation before the announcement.

“Our industry is completely devastated. It’s drastic times. A restaurant is a very sensitive business and our margins are very small,” Alberts said.

“I need to understand what is going to happen to the staff. Is there a relief fund for compensation for staff that work in the industry? We’ve got hundreds of thousands of people that work in our industry that need to continue to be paid.”

The National Treasury yesterday declined to comment on whether it would take a cue from countries like the US which have made coronavirus relief packages available to businesses the hardest hit by the pandemic.

But earlier this week Finance Minister Tito Mboweni said that the government would redirect funds from some government programmes, especially within the national disaster fund, to mitigate against the impact of Covid-19.

Alberts said that the industry had approached landlords and the banks to freeze leases and loan repayments, but third party delivery services were not co-operating.

She said they were “desperately seeking answers” from the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

Dlamini Zuma on Wednesday invoked the Disaster Management Act and gazetted stringent regulations placing limitations on the sale, dispensing or transportation of alcoholic beverages to curb the spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19).

This followed the declaration of the state of national disaster by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday as the number of Covid-19 positive cases is on the rise in the country.

The regulations order that all taverns, restaurants and clubs that are selling alcohol should close by 6pm on weekdays and Saturdays, and by 1pm on Sundays, and also accommodate no more than 50 persons at one time.

The government also allowed businesses to skip Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) payments for the coming months and is expanding UIF coverage to better protect affected workers.

The outbreak of Covid-19 has wreaked havoc in various industries, resulting in travel disruptions and restrictions across the world, closure of schools and businesses.


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