The Tourism Department has received numerous complaints from the public on how restaurants are operating under Level 2 lockdown. There is a growing concern that restaurant owners may be forced to shut their doors due to non-compliance of lockdown regulations.

In a statement, Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane noted with concern the non-compliance by some restaurants since the move to Alert Level 2 of the COVID-19 risk adjusted strategy.

“We have received numerous complaints from ordinary law-abiding citizens, other operators and employees about the situation in these restaurants,” said Kubayi-Ngubane.

“This practice of disregarding the regulations, directions and protocols reportedly include practices such as restaurants operating during curfew, offering take-away alcohol and none adherence to social distancing or wearing of masks as required by law amongst other violations. This does not only risk these businesses licenses but also endangering the safety of their loyal customers and dedicated workers.”

The minister has written letters to restaurants insisting and appealing yet again for their cooperation, as the sector cannot risk having any of the hard-earned gains made thus far reversed as this will have devastating impact on the recovery of the sector.

The Restaurant Association of South Africa’s (RASA) CEO Wendy Alberts has also warned owners that they are still subject to strict rules and regulations in operating their business, regardless of the lockdown level in place.

Eateries and bars must stick to rules like taking temperatures of patrons before they enter the establishment, enforcing mask wearing unless customers are eating or drinking, and maintaining social distancing.

However, some restaurant owners have taken the easing of lockdown restrictions as a sign they may relax their own regulations.

In a message circulated to industry members, Alberts writes: “It has become apparent that various owners believe that the current regulations do not apply to them. We have worked so hard to open our sector and much heartache has been caused due to the restrictions and full closure of our beautiful restaurants.

“To date we have had reports of restaurants operating past curfew, ignoring the social distancing protocols and not ensuring masks are used, etc. These incidents have sprung up all over social media and [have] since garnered the attention of the Minister of Tourism and the NCCC. Due to these infractions, consideration is being held to impose stricter protocols or even reverting to off-site consumption and even to close the restaurant sector.

“It is unthinkable that due to a few operators not following the rules, the entire industry may suffer again. As unfortunate as it is, we must therefore encourage the reporting of non-compliant restaurants so that we can save the industry as a whole. We urge everyone to follow the regulations and hope that everyone stays safe.”

RASA is looking into a system to monitor restaurant compliance, reports EWN.

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