The owner of the world’s best restaurant has begged Cyril Ramaphosa to lift the ban on alcohol sales as well as the coronavirus curfew which has put the livelihood of his employees at risk.
In an open letter, chef Kobus van der Merwe reminds the president of the great service he personally experienced at the Wolfgat restaurant on the Cape West Coast. “We could barely contain our excitement and pride while setting ’table 1’ – our best table, overlooking the Paternoster bay – knowing we were preparing it for the president and five guests.”
Wolfgat was named the best restaurant in the world at The World Restaurant Awards in Paris, France in February last year. Van der Merwe writes, “Throughout the afternoon’s wine service you kept me on my toes, repeatedly informing me in jest that one of the young women at the table – a friend of the family, it seemed – was extremely knowledgeable about wine and also a world record holder. You chuckled and said I ought to be nervous. (Of course. I was nervous!) We all laughed.”
Van der Merwe’s moving open letter, of which the presidency has confirmed receipt, has gone viral since it was published on Wolfgat’s Facebook page. It follows a protest by the restaurant, hospitality and wine industries last week in which the raised alarm that more than 800 000 jobs are on the line because of stringent covid-19 regulations.
He adds, “With these restrictive measures in place, we are struggling to keep afloat and it is severely impacting the livelihoods of our teams and our families, and our communities. We dream about the next ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity to host someone of your stature at Wolfgat. But like many of our colleagues, we’re not sure if our restaurant will survive to ever see that day.”
According to the celebrity chef and restaurateur Wolfgat has adhered to the strict covid-19 measures enforced by the restaurant industry given the severity of the pandemic, he says. “We were first to close our restaurant doors even before the national lockdown in order to aid in flattening the curve. Since we have opened we adhere to screening of staff and guests, strict physical distancing, mask wearing and uncompromising sanitary protocols to keep our team and guests safe.”
Meanwhile the reinstatement of the liquor sales ban had a domino effect down to retail suppliers. Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants, a well-known butchery, has also been forced to shut the doors of their Durbanville branch in Cape Town.
In a Facebook post, the butchery says, “Covid-19 took away the eatery and we cannot recover. The math does not allow it. We cannot generate enough sales, in fact every day that we tried to stay open would have cost us more money.”