Rockpool on Beach Road, Sea Point. Restaurants are preparing to open again to cater for sit-down guests after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced sectors that will be allowed to operate under level 3. Armand Hough African News Agency (ANA)
Rockpool on Beach Road, Sea Point. Restaurants are preparing to open again to cater for sit-down guests after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced sectors that will be allowed to operate under level 3. Armand Hough African News Agency (ANA)

Restaurants can reopen but what are the rules from government?

By Sam Spiller Time of article published Jun 20, 2020

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CAPE TOWN - South Africa’s restaurants are gearing up to get back to business, bracing for what reopening in a post-lockdown world will look like.

On Thursday, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that under continued level 3 regulations, leisure businesses such as hotels, restaurants, casinos and cinemas would be allowed to reopen and operate while adhering to strict physical distancing guidelines.

But proprietor of the Chefs Warehouse chain of restaurants Liam Tomlin said the president’s announcement did little in the way of providing clarity on a path to reopening.

“The announcement was very vague and really doesn’t make it any easier for us in planning or making any decisions on the reopening of our businesses or if it will make financial sense to reopen them until we have solid guidelines as to how we can operate,” he said.

“For example, can we serve alcohol as normal without restrictions on the hours of consumption as we experienced pre-lockdown. How many guests can we have in our space, how many staff are allowed on site, etc.”

Tomlin operates five restaurants across the Western Cape, three on wine farms. On June 11, Chefs Warehouse at Maison Estate in Franschhoek reopened, offering customers a marketplace to purchase goods and a take-out menu.

Rockpool on Beach Road, Sea Point. Restaurants are preparing to open again to cater for sit-down guests after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced sectors that will be allowed to operate under level 3. Armand Hough African News Agency (ANA)

On Friday, Chefs Warehouse, located at Beau Constantia wine farm, reopened with a shop-and-collect experience for its patrons.

Randolph Jorberg, founder of the Beerhouse group and the Hospitality Alliance, said that with the reopening of food outlets, the sale of alcohol specifically was a make-or-break factor for many.

“Reading the comments of our patrons on social media groups, there is a huge number of customers confirming that they will stay away and rather continue to eat at home with a bottle of liquor bought in a bottle store if they are not allowed to consume liquor in our restaurants,” he said.

It’s now a waiting game as restaurant owners and industry bodies wait on government to publish physical distancing guidelines.

Mayor Dan Plato said while he welcomed that hospitality workers could return to work, more clarity was needed on when exactly that could happen.

The Western Cape government reported that it was waiting on the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs to officially release the level 3 regulations before drafting its own health guidelines.

Tasso Evangelinos, chief executive of the Cape Central City Improvement District, said businesses in the CBD would be ready to receive patrons and abide by all coronavirus safety protocols.

“It has been a harsh few months for many CBD retailers, many of whom have struggled to cope financially during the nationwide lockdown, especially during level 5,” he said.

“Many restaurants, from fine-dining establishments to casual eateries, have had to think out-of-the-box and prove their entrepreneurial mettle to stay in business. They have done this admirably, from reinventing their business model, albeit temporarily, to attracting customers by taking their business online as the economy has opened up.

The Federated Hospitality Association of South Africa welcomed the announcement, stating that the sector would take longer to recover due to a lack of international visitors and the failure of insurance claim payouts to some businesses.

Rockpool on Beach Road, Sea Point. Restaurants are preparing to open again to cater for sit-down guests after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced sectors that will be allowed to operate under level 3. Armand Hough African News Agency (ANA)

“We believe there are sufficient means to contain the spread of the virus in both accommodation and food service operations,” said chief executive officer, Lee Zama.

Major leisure companies are already implementing their own measures. On Thursday, The Sun International group which operates GrandWest Casino and Entertainment World and the Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town, published measures that both its restaurant tenants and patrons must adhere to.

The measures include people maintaining 1.5m distance from one another, menus to be sanitised or disposed upon single use, condiments to be served with meals in single-use packages, and cutlery and napkins to be provided in a paper sleeve. “Our new health and safety protocols adhere to travel and tourism industry standard protocols for Covid-19 that were issued by the Tourism Business Council of South Africa, and approved by government’s health experts as well as an independent epidemiologist,” said the group’s chief operating officer for hospitality, Graham Woods. “We are well-prepared to safely reopen our operations around the country.”

For Tomlin, any guidelines for restaurants would have to be applied on a case-by-case basis, with the responsibility of social distancing also laying with patrons.

“I don’t think there can be one standard rule that fits all,” he said. “You can’t give a number of people that is the standard for all restaurants. Looking at what’s going on around the rest of the world, we are definitely ready to start going out again.”

WEEKEND ARGUS 

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