Restaurants threaten legal action in bid to sell alcohol again
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Rasa chief executive Wendy Alberts said probably less than 20% of restaurants would be opening this week despite new regulations which allow for sit-down meals under lockdown level 3 regulations.
The regulations, which Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma gazetted on Friday, do not allow the sale of alcohol for on-site consumption with meals and require restaurants to serve only 50 patrons or 50% of capacity, whichever is the smaller, which restaurants say would impact profitability. They also have to implement strict health protocols and social-distancing measures.
Alberts said the association had sent a letter to Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel late on Friday asking him to provide the rationale for the prohibition on on-site consumption of alcohol.
She said the association and its legal team would be having “strong conversations” this week with Patel, Health Minister Zweli Mkhize and Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane.
“We can’t continue to make relaxations on our businesses to be takeaways, and bottle stores, and now to be opening without being able to serve alcohol. We sent a letter to Patel on Friday to ask him to explain the risk and for him to share the data supplied by the restaurant industry on how Covid-19 is transmitted by consuming alcohol,” Alberts said.
“We have indicated that we will issue legal action against them if they can’t lift it (the ban) by the end of this week. There is absolutely no valid reason for it. Our restaurants are dying by the dozen but supermarkets are allowed to trade as they are.
“We are not going to stand for it any more. The government now needs to play its part – we have been respectful and made sure we have all the health protocols in place,” Alberts said.
“Hundreds and hundreds of restaurants have closed for good. We have had no financial support, Ters (the temporary employment scheme) has not paid out and UIF has had issues. We need to return to business as normal,” she said.
She said the industry had experienced “massive retrenchments”.
Gary Clayton, owner of Keys on Florida, Keys on Davenport, Keys Southside in Malvern and coffee shop Plate It Café in Florida Road, said he would not be opening his businesses today, mainly because of the alcohol ban. However, he said he planned to open one of the Keys franchises to test the market later this week.
“Eighty percent of our turnover comes from liquor and 20% from food, so to open and do food turnover doesn’t make sense,” Clayton said.
Little Havana and Havanna Grill owner Josè Goncalves said he planned to open his restaurants on Wednesday although he had received “very few” bookings so far because people wanted a dining experience that included a bottle of wine.
“It is a stupid regulation to not allow people to go to a sit down in a restaurant and have a drink. People do not go to restaurants to get drunk. My son lives in Spain and they never stopped drinking and smoking and now everything is open and they have had no new infections for three weeks,” he said.
“At least if they do drop the alcohol ban we will be open and ready,” Goncalves said.
Butcher Boys’ Umhlanga, Hillcrest and Florida Road co-owner Derrick Myers said he would be meeting his business partners today to make a decision whether to open. However, he said he doubted they would open their doors this week without being able to serve alcohol with meals.
“Although our alcohol sales are only 30% of turnover, not many people will go out for dinner without being able to have a drink. The typical example was before lockdown when they stopped us selling alcohol after 6pm, turnover dropped to 10%,” he said.