Proposal to allow sit-downs at restaurants being drafted: Minister

Tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane says her department is putting together a proposal to submit to the National Coronavirus Command Council to allow restaurants to open up more services under lockdown level 3.

Kubayi-Ngubane detailed how the restaurant sector can function from 1 June 2020 at a briefing on level 3 regulations on Saturday (30 May).

Under lockdown level 3, all restaurants can open for delivery, collection and drive-thru, she said.

In terms of collections, particularly in populated areas like townships, the minister said that it is vital that social distancing measures are put in place to prevent gatherings.

Restaurants with a liquor licence will also be allowed to sell alcohol as a take-away, she said, but stressed that no on-site consumption of food or alcohol is permitted.

The minister said that the department has noted the outcry in the public domain for restaurants to allow sit-downs. She said that her department is currently putting together another submission, proposing further measures in this regard.

Kubayi-Ngubane said, however, that this proposal will have to be put forward to the National Coronavirus Command Council for consideration.

“We are in discussions with restaurants so that whatever solution is provided in this regard for sit-down doesn’t perpetuate the inequality, and we are confident that in our next submission to NCCC this will be considered.

“Once this has been considered by the NCCC, we will be able to make pronouncements” she said.

The restaurant industry in South Africa has expressed continued frustration and desperation around the country’s lock-down regulations, saying that being unable to open fully puts owners’ livelihoods at risk.

Wendy Alberts, chief executive officer of Restaurant Association of South Africa, said the situation is critical.

She said that restaurants which have opened up for delivery under lockdown level 4 have done so to their own detriment, calling it “financial suicide”, pointing out that third party companies who are facilitating deliveries are taking up to 40% of turnover in an already-strained environment.

These frustrations were exacerbated by the recent announcement by president Cyril Ramaphosa that churches and religious groups would be allowed to open services for gatherings of up to 50 people under level 3.

In follow-up interviews, Alberts said the move was a slap in the face to restaurants that had been complying with government regulations, only to be again blocked from returning to full operation at the same level.

She said that with strict social distancing and sanitisation measures in place, there is no reason sit-downs at restaurants will pose any more of a risk to patrons than attending a church service, or queuing at the shop.

The presidency later clarified that the easing of restrictions on religious gatherings came after many discussions which were taking place since the lockdown was implemented – and other sectors were only more recently putting forward proposals for consideration.

As more discussions are had around specific sectors, and assurances are given and plans are put in place, restrictions on various industries are expected to ease.

Tourism at lockdown level 3

The following areas that have been opened up under Level 3:

  • Restaurants for delivery or collection of food. Restaurants with liquor licences are allowed to sell alcohol only for takeout and delivery;
  • Professional services – e.g. tourist guides, tour operators, travel agents, tourism information officers are allowed to come back to operations;
  • Professional Services, including training of nature guides and other related services that are able to ensure safe distance;
  • Public and private game farms have been opened for self-drive excursions;
  • Hiking to be done in compliance with existing guidelines and not in groups;
  • Accommodation activities are allowed, except for leisure;
  • Establishments will no longer require a letter from minister of Tourism to operate. They are required to ensure that they accommodate those in the permitted services and keep records for inspections by the department;
  • Hunting and gaming activities are also allowed.

The following economic activities remain prohibited:

  • Conferences, events, and entertainment activities (except venues that are being used in the fight against the pandemic, eg. distribution points of social relief measures);
  • Casinos;
  • Leisure travel.

Read: Closure and liquidation a daily conversation for South African restaurants under lockdown

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Proposal to allow sit-downs at restaurants being drafted: Minister