The president’s announcement of moving the country back to amended alert level 4 lockdown may be a nail in the coffin for many already struggling businesses, especially those in the restaurant, conferencing and liquor industry said Border-Kei Chamber of Business executive director Lizelle Maurice.
Addressing the nation, president Cyril Ramaphosa reported that all indoor and outdoor gatherings were prohibited, that a curfew from 9pm to 4am will be in place, the sale of alcohol was prohibited and that restaurants were only permitted to sell takeaways among other tabled precautionary measures. He indicated that the new lockdown restrictions would be effective for 14 days as of Monday last week.
Maurice said businesses were already battling to recover when they were plunged back into the current lockdown restrictions. “Businesses will really have to have a think tank about how they are going to navigate this challenging season. Now, more than ever, is the opportunity for business owners to think out of the box and diversify their offerings. If a restaurant was only catering for in-house sit-down meals, now is the time to get into a take away offering and even offering a delivery service if you are able to, at a cost. Catering for in-house meals to offices in the forms of platters would also give a restaurant the competitive edge. Restaurants could also offer in-home services, where the chef cooks a home-cooked meal and just delivers it to the house of the individual who ordered it, before they arrive home in the evening.”
Having only opened for customers two weeks ago, Pilgrims Coffee shop owners Annemarie and Christopher Mills said they struggled to stay positive. “We are selling all our coffee and other hot drinks in takeaway cups. We also have special containers for pastries and other snacks are individually packed. There are two people who work at the coffee shop – a barista and one waiter.
The waiter will continue to receive her salary. Hopefully the restrictions will lift after two weeks and the sales can pick up again. We refuse to let our staff go, so we hope the takeaways will increase so that we can at least pay rent and salaries. We hope the community will support us and other small businesses during this period so that everyone can pull through. Pilgrims Coffee has a vision for the community and the restrictions are adding to the struggles of getting the plans off the ground.”
Helen Edwards of Luxe-Molen Boutique Hotel which was recently introduced to the community of Komani said the latest announcement had mentally been the hardest. “Trading in any industry during these Covid times has been extremely difficult and to keep that positive mentality after you are faced with negative obstacles over and over again is proving to be a challenge. Luxe-Molen Boutique Hotel is affected directly and indirectly with the new restrictions. Currently we are not allowed to open our Mornings Café for sit-down breakfasts, coffee and light lunches. We are in the process of launching our fine dining restaurant which has also taken a few steps back as we are not allowed to serve liquor. Indirectly the public are asked to remain at home. I am a boutique hotel, home-away-from-home. So
I am expecting a slowdown in my overnight accommodation bookings. Luxe-Molen is a wedding/functions venue. This has also been restricted, as has with my conference centre.”
Edwards said the hotel was working on ideas to bring their services to the public, adding that they currently had a take-away and delivery menu available for their Mornings Café.
“We need to change our mind-set on how South Africans are going to do business in future. We have 12 employees. We are trying to keep business as usual for our staff as they too have families they are supporting,” she said.
Maurice said the Border-Kei Chamber of Business was a membership-based organisation which provided access to information and opportunities and played an advisory, support and guidance role. “Although some of our interventions assist the business and community at large, with the Komani action team, we primarily service our paying members. We are not a funding organisation, but give guidance in terms of how to be funding ready. To join the chamber in Komani, people must please contact Adre Bartis because the more members we have, the stronger our voice will be in the region. This is especially relevant and critical now,” she said.
A statement issued on social media by the South African Breweries (SAB) indicated that the company fully understood the seriousness of the third wave and agreed that reasonable measures were needed to curb the pandemic, but they were disappointed by the fourth alcohol ban and thus were left with no alternative but to defend its rights and pursue legal action.
“SAB regrets government’s unfortunate decision to ban the sale of all alcohol for the fourth time in the last 18 months and is deeply concerned by the continued discrimination of the legal alcohol trade, resulting in a burgeoning illicit industry in the country. The current ban which is unsubstantiated by robust scientific evidence has been implemented at a time when the industry was already gearing itself for future stability and was ready to play its part in the country’s economic recovery. SAB is left with no alternative but to protect its business and urgently overturn this decision.” The statement further indicated that the action sought to gain policy certainty and transparency in decision-making for the future sustainability of its business and value chain.
During his recent visit at Emalahleni municipality, MEC for the department of economic development, environmental affairs and tourism Mlungisi Mvoko said: “I always encourage businesses to be compliant. We have, as a department, set aside about R40 million throughout the province to assist the informal sector. They must register with the municipalities so when we get to a higher lockdown level (where everything closes down) we are able to recognise those affected who will not benefit from temporary employees and employers relief schemes. The R40m will assist throughout the province. Many businesses hard hit by Covid-19 are not able to come back, so we have put that on the budget to try and revive them.