Restaurants on the edge

Layoffs and wage reductions at eateries along the coast

20 May 2020 | Business

Swakopmund • [email protected]

Many restaurant owners in Swakopmund are at their wits end. They cannot pay full salaries or retrenchments, and most restaurants are now in the red. The corona crisis and government's strict regulations have literally brought industry to its knees.

Allgemeine Zeitung spoke to several persons involved in the industry about their predicament.

The Swakopmund Lighthouse Group, which operates the three restaurants (Lighthouse, Jetty and Tiger Reef Beach Bar), is particularly hard hit. “I don't know what to do next,” the group’s managing director, Quinton Liebenberg, said.

Since the beginning of the lockdown and travel restrictions at the end of March, he has not earned a cent. At first he tried to do takeaways.

“But we quickly found that it wasn't worth it. Large restaurants like mine would have to sell around 40 take-away meals an hour,” he said, adding: “My losses are higher when I open the doors for takeaways than when I stay closed. After all, guests come to our restaurants because of the atmosphere. ”

He currently employs 146 people. “It breaks my heart, but I have to let 90 workers go,” he said.

However, he does not have the financial resources for retrenchment packages because he invested in property and equipment. He also invested around N$ 1.2 million to renovate the Tiger Reef Beach Bar in 2019.

The next stage of Namibia's lockdown easing is scheduled to start on 2 June. Thereafter guests will be allowed to take a seat in a restaurant and the sale of alcoholic beverages will be permitted. However, the consumption of alcohol at the restaurant itself will not be allowed; it may be taken away.

“This doesn't make any sense to me, because guests want to enjoy a glass of wine with their steak. This regulation promotes illegal alcohol consumption in public,” Liebenberg said.

Andy Thomson, owner of the Swakopmund restaurant Old Sailor, has a similar view.

“Alcohol sales make up a significant portion of our income,” he said.

Unlike Liebenberg, Thomson sold takeaways throughout the lockdown.

“I can't say the business paid off, I was just trying to keep the store going,” he said.

Before the corona crisis, he employed ten people, and he only needed three for takeaways.

“It is clear that many Swakopmunders are affected by the crisis and are therefore preparing meals at home. Also, tourists made up a large part of our income, which also no longer exists,” he said.

Altstadt restaurant management are also desperate. Before the corona crisis, 44 employees worked there, including waiters who earned their salary mainly through tips and commission. While takeaways are offered there, “I only need three employees for this,” said co-owner Norbert Sadlowsky.

The takeaway business was “OK” with him, but overall he hardly made 20 percent of normal sales.

As from today (Wednesday, 20 May) the Brauhaus also wants to open for takeaways. The restaurant closed on 27 March.

“We hope the long weekend will bring visitors from the interior,” said co-owner Enjo Müller, who hopes that the business will pay off. We also have to get the kitchen going again and make preparations,” he added.

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