As restaurants get ready for recovery, Fita to continue tobacco legal battle

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced sweeping amendments to lockdown regulations on Saturday night, including a lift on the ban on tobacco and alcohol sales.

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CAPE TOWN/JOHANNESBURG - There are fears the move to level 2 of the lockdown may have come a little too late, but the Restaurant Association of South Africa said there was no time to waste as the road to recovery would be long.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced sweeping amendments to lockdown regulations on Saturday night, including a lift on the ban on tobacco and alcohol sales.

Many eateries have only been able to operate at half-mast in lockdown level 3 due to the curfew and banning of on-site liquor consumption, while some still fight insurers for business interruption claims.

The restaurant’s association said some business may never be able to operate again as the lockdown forever changed the face of eateries.

The association's Wendy Alberts explained: “After 23 weeks in this pandemic, restaurants have really suffered. It’s time now for us to emerge from this deep economic trouble that we have faced for many weeks. The industry is shattered. We need to take this opportunity and reinvent the industry.”

WATCH: The moment Ramaphosa announced level 2, booze and cigarette sales

Alberts said since restaurants could operate, communities tried their best to keep the industry afloat.

“What we’ve seen is that consumers have been incredible. Consumers have tipped staff, some giving R1,000 on a R400 meal. Restaurants were the first ones to put up their hands to do sponsorships for sports days or helping schools, and we saw consumers giving that love back.”

The president also announced family visits will be allowed again, while gyms may resume operations.

The new regulations will come into effect from the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile, while the president's decision to move the country to level 2 of the lockdown has largely been welcomed, government may still have to defend the introduction of the ban on cigarette sales to begin with.

But the Fair-Trade Independent Tobacco Association (Fita) said it would continue with its appeal to challenge the legitimacy of the ban.

The association was granted leave to appeal a previous ruling, which dismissed its bid to have the contentious overturned.

Fita said it would wait on the amended regulations to be gazetted and would be watching the situation unfold with cautious optimism.

The association's chair said Sinenhlanhla Mnguni: “We are of the firm view that even under lockdown level 5, cigarettes should have been sold. The regulations did not exclude the sale of tobacco products. That is where we made our argument that these should have been considered among basic goods.”

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