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‘Restrictions killing our businesses’

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“Taverns and shebeens must close on time and there may not be more than 100 people gathered, at once, at these places.”

LOCAL businesses believe that the restrictions imposed on operating hours, in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, will force them to close their doors as they rely on business that is generated after hours.

On-consumption sites selling liquor, including taverns, restaurants and nightclubs, must be closed from 6pm until 9am the following morning on weekdays and Saturdays and from 1pm on Sundays and public holidays.

The Northern Cape Provincial Commissioner, Lieutenant-General Risimati Shivuri, said yesterday that the police would enforce adherence to the regulations of the Disaster Management Act.

“Taverns and shebeens must close on time and there may not be more than 100 people gathered, at once, at these places.”

Large local chain restaurants said that they would remain open as normal, until they received new guidelines from their respective head offices. “We will place a sign on our doors and gates to notify the public of any changes.”

A local licensed restaurant indicated that they would remain open, although they would stop selling liquor from 6pm.

The Restaurant Association of South Africa has clarified that restaurants would be allowed to operate past 6pm but were prohibited from serving alcohol past that time.

Local restaurant and pub owners stated that they would be immediately adhering to the regulations to protect themselves and their customers.

“We have no choice, even though it is killing our businesses. We also can’t afford to have our licences confiscated if we do not comply.

“While we will not be letting go of staff, their working hours will be drastically reduced by about 50 percent. Staff are paid by the hour and do not earn fixed salaries.

“It will be difficult to sustain these operating hours and the longer the regulations are implemented the more businesses will have to close their doors, permanently.”

On-consumption liquor outlets pointed out that they usually opened their doors from noon.

“This means we essentially have six hours of trading while customers usually start coming in from around 8pm. Weekend sales will be badly affected, while it will not be profitable to rely on food sales alone. Meanwhile we have to continue paying the overhead costs and salaries. We have to fund the overhead costs of supplying sanitisers, gloves and waterless hand gel.”

One business owner said a number of visitors had cancelled their accommodation bookings.

“My creditors will have to wait for payment because this situation was not of my making. I feel so powerless because no one can give small business owners any direction or answers. My only option at this stage is to get down on my knees and pray because I do not know what else I can do. The coronavirus will have a devastating impact on local business and the economy.”

A pub and grill owner added that he had to physically count the number of patrons entering the premises.

“If there are more than 50 people, patrons have to wait until someone leaves before they can come in.

“The economy is already suffering and unemployment is rife. Hopefully this will be a temporary arrangement because people usually start coming in after work. The restrictions will negatively impact our business but there is not much that we can do, in the interests of safety. It does not help to look for loopholes or operate beyond the stipulated hours because the restrictions were implemented for a reason.

“I am playing by the rules because I don’t want my family to be infected. I hope and pray that this will pass quickly and that they can find a vaccine or a cure, so that things can go back to normal.”