Covid-19: Empty seats take heavy toll on country's restaurants
Pretoria - Restaurant owners in the City of Tshwane joined their counterparts from other parts of the country to highlight their plight in the “Million seats on the Streets” and #JobsSaveLives protests on Wednesday.
They put out their tables and chairs on pavements or in the street, with staff lining up and holding up placards amid the desperate cry for help by the industry’s 800 000 staff members whose jobs are on the line. Other sectors in a dire situation are those of alcohol and tourism.
In Hazelwood, The Village Restaurant owners said they were tired of suffering due to the lockdown regulations.
Robertson Winery’s Nico Havel organised the silent protest which saw them putting empty chairs outside for two hours.
Havel said the business had lost R74 million in sales and 485 000 cases of wine in April.
He said they had 330 workers who were dependent on them and whose jobs were on the line.
“This affects everybody, from the people picking the grapes and transporting them, to the people bottling the wine, and the restaurants. People just don’t know the number of jobs that are on the line, and it has caused an enormous impact.
“You can’t keep on paying salaries if you have been closed for nine weeks,” Havel said.
The alcohol industry contributed a lot to the economy, he said, and he asked how the government planned to support all the hungry people if they didn’t have enough taxi money.
Makwela Transfrontier Safaris private guide Duard Terblanche said local tourism was just as important as international tourism.
He said it was imperative that intra-provincial travel be allowed for local tourism to survive, and the government could still allow for leisure travel, because the protocols were in place.
“It is not that we don’t know what to do We know exactly what we should do. The local market is vital for the morale of people who can make the whole country operate better. Whether it’s from camping to luxury hotels, they all have protocols in place.”
Francois van Rensburg of Penquin Tours said their industry relied on the international market, and as long as borders were closed, they remained closed as well.
He said they had been closed since February, and while some staff had been lucky to get money from the relief fund, it still was not enough to keep them going.
He said South Africa had a lot to offer and there were groups looking to come to the country as soon as borders were reopened.
He added that these were made up of small groups and younger people that had the country in their sights for a visit.
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