Mixed feelings from restaurant and salon owners about opening again

“So many customers will not frequent a restaurant for fear the Covid-19 virus,” – Larry Hodes, the owner of Arbour Cafe

 

Some half-a-million people in industries ranging from restaurants to beauty salons and casinos are expected to return to work, following President Cyril Ramaphosa’s address Wednesday evening.

However, while the government was considering a move to advanced Level 3 of lockdown with sit-down dining and much-needed beauty treatments after a gruelling isolation period, no date has yet been confirmed.

The Citizen caught up with a few of well-known Johannesburg industry players to get their take on what the new ease of limitations means for their daily operations.

Candice Thurston, the founder and CEO of the hugely popular one-stop Candi & Co beauty franchise, says she and her staff appreciate last night’s announcement and are really looking forward to welcoming back their customers.

“Any further extension of the lockdown would have seen many businesses within our industry face possible economic failure. While no date has been announced as yet, we are encouraged that the thousands of South African women and men, who make their living in the industry, will soon be able to get back to work through a responsible, phased and measured re-opening.”

The clamp-down on salons and beauty services have been a hot topic since the beginning of lockdown, with owners and staff arguing that their services are among the more hygienic.

Jacques Botha, the owner of Mumbai Xpress Barber Shop in Parkhurst says hygiene within the industry always takes precedence, as the safety and experience of the customer is what ensures continued support.

“Our shops are Covid-19 ready with all possible hygiene measures in place for the safety and protection of our customers and staff. The biggest change that customers will immediately notice when they arrive is that they won’t allowed to wait inside. They can either wait outside in their cars on chairs provided until a barber is free to assist them.”

Expressing gratitude to the government for easing the lockdown and acknowledging the support of customers and their donations during the tough lockdown, Botha said he is eager to hear when business can open again.

Larry Hodes, the owner of Arbour Cafe, The Gourmet Grocer at Voodoo Lily and The Dark Kitchen, is cautiously optimistic about the announcement what it means for business.

“I have mixed feelings. On the one hand we’re very excited as it means bringing back more staff, earning more revenue and getting back to what we know best. On the other hand, I am not sure how consumers will take to this, i.e. will they frequent the restaurants?”

Hodes said many customers have voiced how excited they are to return to sitting down at restaurants, but so many will not frequent a restaurant for fear the Covid-19 virus.

The arrival of the global pandemic and the massive financial burden it placed on the hospitality industry has been far-reaching – with some not so lucky.

Gerald Elliot of Ba-Pita restaurant in Melville Johannesburg.

One such establishment is Ba-Pita, the Middle Eastern cuisine favourite on Melville’s once bustling 7th Street.

Gerald Elliott, the co-owner of the restaurant recently posted on Facebook that due to the pandemic limitations, the eatery would be closed indefinitely.

“It is with a great deal of sadness that we regret to inform you [customers] that Ba-Pita in Melville is no more. Until we can seat people without social distancing, while they enjoy a drink or two, Ba-Pita is simply not viable.,” said Elliott.

He did, however, add that this is certainly not the end of the road for Ba-Pita and that customers can rest assured that they will be back.

One thing is certain, industry players are relieved even with the limited options that opening up these sectors may bring.

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