At 2oceansvibe, we’re generally against open letters.
We do make the odd exception, and given how South Africa’s restaurant industry is being brought to its knees, we’ll make another.
The Restaurant Collective (R|C), which represents 12 members (these include Tashas, Ocean Basket, and Doppio Zero), has penned an open letter to President Cyril Ramaphosa, outlining ways in which the industry can work with the government going forward.
Whilst 12 members may not sound like much, between them, they operate more than 500 sit-down restaurants across the country, with the letter focusing on a ‘blueprint for recovery’ in response to the crippling pandemic, and national lockdown regulations.
Recent numbers from the food and beverage industry’s trading during April and May outline just how grave the situation is, and it seems like each day brings news of multiple service industry businesses shutting down.
From the R|C website, here’s part of that open letter:
Dear Mr President
Just one year ago, the food and beverages industry contributed R6-billion monthly to the SA economy* and employed more than 500 000 people. The majority of these businesses are SMMEs – small entrepreneurial successes.**
Fast forward 12 months and it is unlikely any of these businesses will make a profit.
At least 70% have had to retrench employees to save costs and 40% have not received any form of government loan or support…
As we begin this journey, the immediate support we need is:
• Speed up and resolve the delays in UIF and TERS pay-outs
• Allow restricted alcohol sales for licensed sit-down restaurants
• Amend the current curfew time to 22h00
• Reduce VAT by 5% – and keep it that way until June 2021
• Introduce tax incentives for SMMEs that are able to grow employment
• Work with banks to reduce credit card and cash deposit fees for one year
• Reduce rates and utilities costs charged by landlords by 50% for one year
• Impose on utility providers not to demand payments while restaurants were/are unable to trade
• Continue PAYE deferments and provide an incentives claim system to aid the long-term ability of entrepreneurs to employ people without shouldering tax burdens
• Collaborate with key financial institutions to to tailor products to those industries hardest hit by COVID
• Create qualifying criteria for these relief benefits and develop online applications where an automated scorecard can assist with the allocation of funds.
A report from the SA Medical Research Council (SAMRC) suggests that the ban on the sale of liquor could last eight weeks int total, or close to another seven weeks from today, which would spell the end for many establishments.
Citing what they call ‘The Domino Effect’, the R|C outlines the impact the closing of restaurants will have, including reduced taxes, greater demand on the government for UIF grants, landlords with empty properties, and an increase in crime.
The letter ends as follows:
Based on ruinous revenue losses related to government-ordered closures, economic realities, and projections, the sit-down restaurant industry’s survival is dependent on a targeted collaborative response. An unprecedented crisis of this scale requires that we work together.
Today is also the day that mass protests, organised by the Restaurant Association of SA (RASA), are slated to take place. Dubbed the ‘1 Million Seats on the Streets’ protests, road blockages are planned outside of restaurants, using chairs and tables that sit empty.
The protest is due to take place between midday and 2PM, but the SAPS may have the final say.
Here’s Business Insider SA:
…in a letter to RASA, the police warned that all public gatherings are currently banned under disaster management legislation – unless it is to conduct “normal business”.
“When tables and chairs are moved to the street in front of a restaurant, one can hardly argue that the conduct forms part of the legitimate business of a restaurant to which the exception in DMA regulation 37(1)(l) applies,” police deputy commissioner, lieutenant general Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi wrote.
…Mkhwanazi warned RASA that from the police’s viewpoint “your intended peaceful demonstration is not protected” and will be regarded as prohibited.
Just how forceful the police will be in enforcing these regulations remains to be seen, but those participating are encouraged to stay on the “right side” of the police.
That includes maintaining safe physical distancing, and wearing a face mask.
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