Picture: Frank Augstein / AP
Picture: Frank Augstein / AP

'Desperate' restaurants forced to ignore alcohol ban just to survive

By Lyse Comins Time of article published Jul 10, 2020

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Durban - The Restaurant Association of South Africa (Rasa) has warned that some restaurants had resorted to serving alcohol in defiance of the regulations.

The association’s chief executive Wendy Alberts said more restaurants would close and jobs would be lost unless the sector was allowed to serve alcohol with meals to attract patrons.

Alberts said they had written to Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Minister Ebrahim Patel, asking him to provide it with the scientific rationale for the ban on the sale of alcohol with sit-down meals. However, she said his office had taken seven days to respond to the letter, only to refer the association to Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

Restaurants were allowed to open under lockdown level 3 regulations, but the ban on the on-site consumption of alcohol has remained.

Alberts said officials in the DTI had claimed that restaurant patrons were responsible for road accidents and filling up the hospitals.

“We should not be begging to open up our businesses.

“You can’t say to a hairdresser you can open, but you can’t use a hair-dryer,” she said.

She said the association had sent a legal proposal to Patel’s office, asking that restaurants be allowed to open at 70% capacity and for alcohol to be served with sit-down meals.

“We wrote a rude letter to Patel and said we are disgusted by the lack of respect for the sector and at the rate that (restaurants) are falling. We have hundreds of restaurants that have fallen, not because of Covid-19, but because the government didn’t consult with us,” Alberts said.

In Rasa’s legal letter to Dlamini Zuma, the association’s attorney, Ashton Naidoo, said he was aware that some restaurants had resorted to serving alcohol in defiance of the regulations.

“It has come to our attention that many restaurants have reached breaking point and have simply resorted to serving alcohol to ensure that they do not close their doors permanently,” Naidoo wrote.

“In short, due to the lack of action from the NCCC regarding this issue, the vast majority of all restaurateurs have lost all confidence in the lockdown regulations and what they are meant to achieve,” he said.

He said he had previously warned that this was the likely outcome if the government continued to ignore the plight of the industry.

DTI spokesperson Sidwell Medupe and Dlamini Zuma’s spokesperson Lungi Mtshali had not responded to questions at the time of publishing.

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