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Restaurants set for ‘Million seats on the streets’ protest this week

Industry wants urgent meeting with the president over the devastating impact of lockdown restrictions on business.
Peaceful protest by a desperate sector … tables and chairs will be used to block roads outside eateries on Wednesday between 12:00 and 14:00 in a plea to government to ease its lockdown restrictions. Image: Alex Wroblewski, Bloomberg

The biggest-ever united protest in the history of South Africa’s restaurant industry is set to take place on Wednesday as hundreds of eateries, coffee shops and takeaway establishments countrywide will be participating in the ‘Million seats on the streets’ protest against Covid-19 restrictions to trade.

The Restaurant Association of South Africa (Rasa), which is leading the campaign, notified the South African Police Service (Saps) of the planned protest in a letter sent to Lieutenant General Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi via its lawyers Mooney Ford Attorneys on July 15.

Tables and chairs will be used to block roads outside various restaurants between 12:00 and 14:00 on Wednesday as part of the peaceful protest to highlight the massive impact of Covid-19 lockdown regulations on the industry.

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The sector has pretty much been closed from the start of the hard lockdown in late March up to the end of May. Since June it has been operating at limited capacity, with lockdown restrictions not allowing for on-site consumption of alcohol.

According to Rasa, up to 70% of jobs may have already be lost in the industry, totalling some 800 000 people.

“Due to the continual disregard for the restaurant industry, my client [Rasa], its members, and various other restaurants, takeaway shops and coffee shops will be embarking on a nationwide peaceful demonstration,” Ashton Naidoo of Durban-based Mooney Ford Attorneys says in the letter to Mkhwanazi.

Moving moment

“Each restaurant owner will move tables and chairs from their empty restaurants into the street in front of their establishment in protest of the current regulations and to highlight the plight of the industry. We have advised the restaurants that such groups must not exceed 15 people per restaurant and all social distancing protocols will be observed,” he adds.

A poster punting the Restaurant Association of SA’s ‘Million seats on the streets’ protest on Wednesday. Image: Supplied

In the letter, Naidoo asks Mkhwanazi to notify police stations across the country about the planned peaceful demonstration, saying Rasa wants to work with the Saps to ensure the action is done in a peaceful and respectful manner.

“We will be ensuring that restaurants drop a notice at their local [police] station, so that individual stations are forewarned of the demonstration,” he notes.

Read: Dining industry still in ICU

Rasa CEO Wendy Alberts tells Moneyweb that since the campaign was launched on various social media platforms last week, the association has received the backing of hundreds of members as well as tourism and hospitality industry bodies.

United front

“We are presenting a united front on this as a broader industry, for the government to take us more seriously. The industry is rallying together, and we believe the protest on Wednesday will be the biggest countrywide protest the restaurant industry has ever organised,” she says.

“Rasa is getting support from restaurants and other establishments across the country, including other industry organisations like the Federated Hospitality Association of SA and the Tourism Business Council of SA.

“We have also appealed to the taxi industry for support as well as other sectors that are affected by restrictions to trade place[d] on the restaurant industry,” she adds.

Read: Domestic leisure travel ban raises ire of tourism industry

“South Africa’s restaurant and hospitality industry is in dire straits, but very few in government are actually hearing our appeal for help, or even interacting with the industry around the devastation and hardships we are facing due to Covid-19 restrictions,” says Alberts.

“We have no option but to take our plight to the streets in a public protest, but which will be peaceful and within the law …. It is not a march or single mass demonstration, but we are asking our members and other industry players to participate in their own areas.”

Alberts hopes the protest will get the attention of President Cyril Ramaphosa.

She has called on the president to meet around a restaurant table of his choice to hear the industry’s concerns.

“Many of our establishments have already closed down or are still not operating due to restrictions to trade,” she says.

Call for rebate of liquor licence fees

Considering the ban on alcohol sales and on-site consumption at restaurants, Rasa is demanding a rebate of liquor licence fees for affected establishments.

It also wants government to allow 70% seating capacity for sit-down restaurants in terms of Covid-19 restrictions.

Ramaphosa’s recent Covid-19 announcement of a curfew from 21:00 to 04:00 is also seen as a new inhibiting factor to business. Rasa notes that for many restaurants the busiest period is after 17:00. However, with the new curfew, restaurants may only effectively trade until 19:00 to allow for establishments to be cleaned and workers to get home in time.

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COMMENTS   18

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People are reluctant to go to places where masks are not worn. They lift restrictions all they want, people will just not go.

“People” should have the freedom to decide, that is the only point.

Yes, like the taxis decide whether they stop at a red light or not..

my experience as well….though we are allowed to do limited trading, people are reluctant/scared to come out unless it is absolutely essential ( especially now that somebody close to them are started to be infected by the virus )

And people dont want to go if they have to wear masks. Fine dining is dead for a while…

Restaurants and their anti South Africans employment practices. Cook at home, eat at home and be safe. Kitchen staff caught not wearing masks

Everybody has a right to try and make a living.

What this ANC government decides on anything are 9 out of 10 times the wrong.

These people have proved themselves just to be pain dumb. I don’t think it helps to try and find a kind word. They don’t deserve it.

People aren’t going to risk a ventilator for a night out. Restaurateurs might as well scream at the sky.

…sad but true. The alcohol ban also makes it worse…like dancing without music.

People have given up obeying the lockdown, government cannot prosecute everybody. The government has not prosecuted Jooste or the Zuptas or anybody fingered at the perpetual Zondo for enormous economic crimes. How are they going to explain prosecuting people for covid?

btw There is no difference between a restaurant worker travelling to / from work and any other worker. Patrons must be home by 21h00, restaurant workers are allowed to be in transit between work and home after 21h00

Restaurants have no leverage on the ruling despots. Not like the taxi mafia has.

At the rate they have arrested people, we are looking at about a million cases which will have to be heard in court by the end of this ridiculous lockdown. Buying a room full of popcorn.

At 500,000 investment per job, loosing 800,000 employees means an uninvestment of R400,000,000,000 (R400Billion)
Hashtag: Job creation summit, Employment Driver, Job Imbizo, International Investment, Mr President

Anc making South Africans more equal every day, all equally poor with an extremely elitists. 2nd most unequal society behind Lesotho.

Fight fight fight. In this corner we have food makers and sellers. In the other corner we have I don’t know who. Covid 19 is the referee.

I just think the economy must be fully opened now that we have built hospital and graveyard capacity. And we are scratching our crotches for a vaccine and/or cure.

Comment not directly related to restaurants.

The one problem with opening up the economy is that the workers are then “forced” to work; even if you reluctant to go due to fear, age, medical etc. I say forced; because the companies will somehow get you to go.

Think about you parents or aunt being asked to come to work because the economy is now open.

The ‘Million seats on the streets’ protesters must hire taxi hit men to protect their interests. Then the SAPS and the Metro Police won’t intervene and concentrate their efforts on little old ladies jogging and toddlers.

If only this industry was a reckless, lawless, violently killing-machine that doesn’t pay taxes and kills its customers – mainly low-income Blacks on a daily basis – like the taxi industry, only then does the Government take you seriously and only then can they relate to you.

Unfortunately I don’t think customers want to go at the moment… In November/December for tourist season perhaps? The whole industry will be dead by then and will sadly have to restart… Who would want to own/open a restaurant under these awful business conditions.

End of comments.

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