Gina Neilson, co-owner of the award winning 9th Avenue. Pictures: Buhle Mbonambi
Gina Neilson, co-owner of the award winning 9th Avenue. Pictures: Buhle Mbonambi

9th Avenue Waterside and Max's Lifestyle talk difficulties of lockdown regulations on restaurants

By Buhle Mbonambi Time of article published Jul 26, 2020

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Fabulous fashion, fine food and festivities. That’s what the Vodacom Durban July has become synonymous with over years and that’s exactly what happened again this year.

Even though the event was held behind closed doors, the Virtual Durban July Experience tried to keep all the elements that have made it South Africa’s most popular event, while fans of the event watched in the comfort of their homes.

On Saturday, two iconic Durban restaurants, 9th Avenue Waterside and Max’s Lifestyle, hosted special VDJ luncheons to mark the annual event. Patrons of the restaurants could place their bets while dining.

Gina Neilson, co-owner of the award winning 9th Avenue, said that they have always enjoyed a special relationship with Gold Circle and so it was their chance to promote their event since they cannot host it.

“The July is one of the biggest tourist events of the year so brings revenue and marketing to Durban. I have been surprised more restaurants aren’t doing something for the VDJ, even if it’s home catered meals,” she said.

They roped in some of Durban’s culinary, beverage and design minds to help make their lunch a success.

“I think in these dark times it’s important to collaborate. We collaborated with Kathrin Kidger to make fabulous butterfly inspired masks for our best dressed couple, Doughgirl who is making our brioche buns for our lobster buns for our take home picnic baskets. We wanted to do something fun (with our menu).

“Because we can’t serve alcohol, it doesn't mean we can’t cook with it. Each dish has a different element such as That Brewery beer mayonnaise, Distillery 031 Gin cured Salmon and Kahula and white chocolate cheesecake.”

Max Lifestyle’s Marketing Manager Zinhle Mqadi said they had always hoped to get a licence to allow for their patrons to place bets during the July.

Many of the patrons dressed up in their July best, with Laila Davids and Courtney Abrahams walking away with the best dressed couple.

Max Lifestyle’s Marketing Manager Zinhle Mqadi said they had always hoped to get a licence to allow for their patrons to place bets during the July. “We received the licence a week ago. We applied as soon as we heard that the Durban July would be virtual this year. So we took that opportunity and it worked in our favour. It’s a great sign of confidence from Gold Circle to give us this licence as an establishment as it adds value to our restaurant. We do like to differentiate ourselves in the industry, so this is another added feature for our business and one that adds value.”

Both restaurants have been impacted by the lockdown regulations, which has made trade quite difficult.

“To be honest it has been rather disheartening. With the alcohol ban and the reduced trading hours, our business has been severely knocked,” Neilson said.

“We hope that the ban is lifted soon otherwise Durban definitely will have many restaurants closing permanently. Personally I believe being open is better than being closed but it is purely a mathematical equation. We need to have a certain amount of guests a week coming through to make the numbers work. Please support your local restaurants.”

Mqadi said even though they are delivering their famou shisanyama platters and patrons still come to Max’s Lifestyle, it still hasn’t been easy for them.

“We can’t deny that the bulk of our most revenue for any restaurant is through alcohol sales so the ban has had a big impact on us. People still come for the food, they love our shisanyama, but they don’t stay as long as they usually do. Some of our loyal patrons have chosen to rather to place orders so that we can deliver the meals to them.”

Mqadi says they are working on creating their own delivery app which will make the process easier for them and their patrons.”The existing delivery services currently don’t service the townships, so this is an opportunity for us to create a service that will solve that problem, while also providing us a new clientele.”

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