Restaurants want curfew, lockdown off the menu

Restaurant owners say it is difficult for their customers to wear masks when eating and drinking.
Parow police say they have had no formal complaints of local restaurants flouting lockdown regulations. Video: Karen Watkins

Tourism Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane has warned restaurants and bars not to flout Covid-19 regulations, following complaints to her department of them selling take-away alcohol, breaking curfew and failing to make customers wear masks and practise physical distancing.

The restaurants were risking their businesses’s licences and putting their customers and workers at risk, the minister said.

In response, Wendy Alberts, of the Restaurant Association of South Africa (RASA), said they wanted curfew scrapped and lockdown lifted. Restaurants and bars felt they were being discriminated against and could not survive under the current restrictions, including limits on patron numbers, she said. Now was the time to move from level 2 lockdown to level 1, she said.

Under level 2, which started on Tuesday August 18, alcohol may be served in all licensed restaurants, for on-site consumption only, until 10pm. Also, masks must still be worn in public, gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited, and there is a curfew from 10pm to 4am.

Parow police spokesman Captain Kevin Williams said they had had no formal complaints about restaurants breaking curfew or flouting other lockdown regulations. 

At Plattekloof Village Shopping Centre, a string of well-known franchise restaurants were almost empty, despite it being the end of the month. However, Green’s Restaurant was buzzing. Manager Deidre April said they were working with reduced staff, but “we had to start somewhere”. Staff and diners were aware of the regulations and sticking to them, she said.

Most shoppers we spoke to were reluctant to visit restaurants under the current restrictions. Hennie Louw, of Monte Vista, said he was sick of cooking but wanted to keep safe. Lizel Smit, of Plattekloof, said she had comorbidities and had not bought takeaways or visited a restaurant, gym or cinema since lockdown began.

The restaurants we visited displayed Covid-19 signage, and staff were at the entrance to take temperatures, sanitise diners’ hands and keep a register. There were markings on floors and seats for physical distancing.

A restaurant manager, who did not want to be named, said it was difficult for people to wear masks when eating and drinking. “We’re following all the rules, but we’re having a real battle trying to ensure customers wear their masks inside. Especially because they are sipping coffee and eating,” he said.

At Parow Mall, most diners in the food court were keeping their distance from each other and wearing masks between eating and drinking.

At N1 City, drive-through eateries were doing good trade. Mark Borman, of Goodwood, was waiting to collect a family hamper at a drive-through collection window. He said he found it safer than going into restaurants.