Photograph by Aubergine Restaurant in Cape Town
The Restaurant Industry has been one of the hardest hit by the covid-19 pandemic, and the newly-instituted curfew between 9PM – 4AM has dealt yet another blow to restaurants. Add to that the reinstated alcohol ban, social distancing measures that reduce the number of guests within the establishment, little financial support from government, no payouts from insurance companies, fearful, cash-strapped diners, and it’s no wonder the industry is on its knees. However, they’re not going down without a fight.
The Restaurant Association of South Africa has organised a protest for the 22nd of July from 12 – 2PM. The Million Seats on the Street peaceful protest will see restaurants place tables and chairs on the street adjacent to their establishment for 2 hours, blocking traffic. Restaurants are requested to ask their local police station for support in diverting traffic during that time. For more information, get in touch with RASA here.
Another protest taking place is #Serveusplease, which calls on hospitality, tourism, food and alcohol, entertainment, and affiliated industries, to form a human chain starting from Parliament. Each participant will be distanced by 1.5m, so social distancing protocols will be recognised, and the event takes place from 9AM – 12PM. #Serveusplease spokesperson Brent Perremore says that while the movement supports the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, it is asking Government to consider the significant impact this has had on the hospitality and extended industries, and to allow businesses to operate while adhering to the strict controls that other countries have adopted.
The #jobssavelives movement on social media, spearheaded by Chef Liam Tomlin, is another way that restaurants are drawing attention to the ramifications of the lockdown. See below to see a few examples – it’s a stark reminder of what is at stake should the industry fail.
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#jobssavelives I've always been a positive supporter of the seemingly draconian measures imposed on us by the government because I firmly believed that while we would all suffer (perhaps not equally) it was for a greater good. I was also proud that, as all the madness that was going on around the world, we had a leader who showed stature & empathy – cometh the hour, cometh the man. But, this week I find that resolve quickly evaporating. How do I support a government that has clearly turned its back on the hospitality & tourism industry, it has continued to shun sound & well researched input from professional bodies such as the SA Tourism Board, FEDHASA & The SA Restaurant Association. While at the same time has capitulated to the Taxi Industry. Perhaps it's because collectively we just don't have the muscle – we won't blockade highways, we won't burn down restaurants nor will we indiscriminately shoot people on their way to & from work. We pose no real immediate threat, because the government clearly doesn't see the imminent collapse of our industry as their problem. That or they have simply lost control of the situation . People from inside & out of the industry, have suggested all manner of protest, but nothing we could do would hold the government to ransom like the Taxi Industry. Again it's because our protest holds no real threat. What if all the many hospitality staff whom are currently, selflessly volunteering to provide meals for those less fortunate decided to down soup ladles in protest? By my rough calculation, in Cape Town alone, that would be in excess of 300 000 meals per week. You multiply that by the various programs operated around the country, by like minded individuals , for ZERO PROFIT, I might add (unlike the taxi industry) and you're probably looking at close to a million souls being fed weekly, by people who have been abandoned by the same government who have seemingly abandoned those they are feeding. But that protest is never going to happen, because we're not prepared to sacrifice the lives of others in order to be heard, unlike the Taxi Industry. I write this at my wit's end & I'm not alone – I have 34 staff members
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#jobssavelives . Our industry is in ruins and we are doing our best to keep fighting by having changed our offering to #UBtoGO to keep our brand and hope alive. Thank you to everyone who has ordered thus-far, which is helping us to keep going (for now.) We ask that you please help to raise awareness and keep pressuring those who seemingly are in charge without offering any support and to those refusing to pay out insurance. With the newly regulated curfew, alcohol ban and #loadshedding- none of us will still be here when this is over. We employ 18 x talented and incredible individuals- all with families & dependents. . . . @eatoutguide @jhp_gourmet_guide @chefswarehouse_chef_liamtomlin