There is fear and uncertainty coming from restaurant and bar owners in Johannesburg as the numbers of Covid-19 cases increase by the day in South Africa.
As if Sunday’s declaration of a national state of disaster by President Cyril Ramaphosa was not alarming enough, they were met with further shock on Wednesday when the government released regulations that all establishments – including bars, clubs, shebeens and restaurants that sell liquor – must shut down, or can operate between 09:00 and 18:00 Mondays to Saturdays and by 13:00 on Sundays and public holidays provided there are no more than 50 people.
Now, owners are grappling with how they will maintain their businesses and ensure they do not have to shed jobs, without knowing how long the pandemic will last.
While Melville’s 7th Street is known to generally be bustling with people in its restaurants and lively bars day and night, by Thursday afternoon it was a ghost town, reminiscent of the December period when things quiet down.
“We will stay safe, and if someone is sick, they can just let us know, and I will replace them with someone who is well.”
Upon entering the establishment, customers are offered hand sanitisers. The staff also wears gloves and clean surfaces and tables regularly. The kitchen is also disinfected along with card machines.
Krischker said the announcement that places must close at 18:00 was worrying because the establishment started buzzing in the afternoon when people came from work.
“It is a concern because three-quarters of your trade is more from 17:00 after work time. We already had an incident in the street in the New Year that got Melville a little bit down.
“So, we are actually a little bit used to this because Melville was already crucified for that incident. But now it’s this thing [coronavirus]. It makes it worse because if your turnover is less than 60% you lose,” the owner said.
Meanwhile, Kitchener’s Carvery Bar in Braamfontein has closed its doors until further notice.
Its owner, Andrew Clements, said the establishment was forced to close down since the president’s announcement on Sunday.
Clements added while he would wait on the government to give a directive on when people could be in public spaces again, he was concerned about his employees.
“It’s horrifying. We are going to continue paying staff for as long as we possibly can, and we are in negotiations with landlords regarding rent. It’s not good. None of our staff has been here,” he said.
News24 also visited The Bannister Hotel bar in Braamfontein.
On arrival, people are met with a sign stating: “Be wise sanitise.” The staff at the establishment also encourage customers to use a hand sanitiser stationed at the entrance.
The owner, Andrew Bannister, said he had anticipated the situation would be dire and started preparations early, having awareness training for the staff.
“We will probably be cutting salaries after this month. I’m trying not to retrench anyone. I will see how the talks go with my staff that they can agree to take a substantial drop in salaries, otherwise I have to go to retrenchments, which I don’t want to,” Bannister added.
‘I hope the virus doesn’t kill more businesses than it kills people’
He added he was also consulting with his suppliers to see if they could reduce deliveries.
Bannister said before the announcement on time restrictions, he thought he would allow up to 50 people, ensure that everyone would be given hand sanitiser before entering and also get people to sign forms disclosing the countries they had been to and whether they were exposed to anyone with the virus.
“Once they come inside we would [have santised] them. If we saw anyone coughing or sneezing, we chase them out. But now with the 18:00 ban, it makes it a lot more difficult. I’m hoping the food will pick up.”
He said the number of customers had dropped over the last few days as the virus continued to spread.
“I support the idea to [contain the spread] but I’m just worried about the business. I hope the virus doesn’t kill more businesses than it kills people.”
The Bannister Hotel, in its fight against the spread of the virus, has tried to stop placing sauces on tables and hand them out when customers indicate they needed them. It also prints menus and discards them after being used.
As of Thursday, 150 people were confirmed to have Covid-19.