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Restaurant industry fed up

The restaurant industry is already disintegrating, and pleas for help are falling on deaf ears.

This was the message when restaurant owners and staff in the Eastern Free State took to the streets on Wednesday (22/07) to protest against government’s Covid-19 regulations imposed on the hospitality industry, which include prohibiting the sale of alcohol in restaurants.

In Clarens, where tourism is a lifeline for the local community, Ray Meyers, chairman of the Clarens Community Forum (CCF) and owner of The Posthouse Restaurant, explains the extent of the financial loss.

“Clarens has been extremely hard hit by the lockdown regu­lations, as tourism is the only source of income for the village community of approximately 8 000 residents.

“The majority of our accommodation establishments have had no income at all for the past four months and at best we might see a handful of ‘allowed’ business travellers in a month.”

The restaurants and shops in Clarens are all reliant on tourists for their survival, says Meyers.

“Not only is leisure travel banned, but we are burdened with the ban on sales and on-site consumption of alcohol, plus a 21:00 curfew.

“The vast majority of businesses in Clarens have not received any relief funding from government and many are still awaiting payment for April, May and June from the Unemployment Insurance Fund’s Temporary Employee Relief Scheme (UIF TERS).”

With no recovery action plan or funding for tourism from government and no idea when the sector may open up, even to intra-provincial and domestic tourism, it is most likely that over 1 000 jobs will be lost in the next two months, resulting in devastation of the village of Clarens and its community, according to Meyers.

“It appears that government has no concern whatsoever regarding the survival of South Africa’s tourism industry and the livelihoods of thousands working in the sector.”

Wendy Alberts, head of the Restaurant Association of South Africa (Rasa), said last week that a report showed nearly 16 000 restaurants have closed permanently, as they found it impossible to show a profit due to the current regulations.

She said a workforce of 800 000 had already been reduced to between 300 000 and 400 000 due to retrenchments.

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