More CBD businesses opening while others reinvent

Charly's Bakery was one of the businesses who were sinking fast during the lockdown
The City Central Improvement District (CCID) has welcomed the opening of more businesses following the easing of lockdown regulations, which they say will be good for stakeholders. 
The announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa that restaurants could open for sit-in dining and beauty salons are able to operate has already seen the footfall in the CBD grow, which is good for business, said CEO of the CCID, Tasso Evangelinos. 

“Since the start of the nationwide lockdown, the economic effects have been deeply felt in the Cape Town CBD, especially by small owner-run and managed businesses.
Some CBD retailers have since closed their doors.

“The latest casualty is Jason Bakery, the iconic bakery in upper Bree Street. Other retailers have had to swiftly rethink their offering and strategy in order to survive.”

The renowned Charly’s Bakery in Canterbury Street almost had to close their doors too.

Owner of Charly’s Bakery, Jacqui Biess, said since she had been following the pandemic in the rest of the world, she was aware what was coming in South Africa, and she saw the bakery’s turn-over dwindling. 

And because Charly’s Bakery has its own reality show, Charly’s Cake Angels, they had big tourist clientele, but as the pandemic spread, tourists stop coming. 

“By the time we got to March, I was very aware of our profit dwindling, and we negotiated with staff to put them on short time. I told them if we go into lockdown, they have to take unpaid leave because there was no money.”

She said she and her daughters, who own and manage the shop, had not been paid a salary from January, because they knew what was coming. 

“When lockdown came, we cleaned up and took our annual three week leave – as we do every year – and said goodbye, hoping to see each other in three weeks. It’s now been three months.”

She said they were still nervous to completely open the doors of the bakery, as South Africa was in peak and they didn’t want to put the staff’s lives in danger. 

“In June we decided not to open. People are struggling, but at the same time, we decided we can’t sit here and watch our lives crumble because lockdown got extended.”

The owners then started a reward-based crowdfunding campaign, where people could purchase rewards, including cake-decorating kits and workshops, the sale of some of Charly’s Bakery products and merchandise, and managed to raise about R350 000. 

The rewards will continue to be sold on the newly-established online store. 

And while the announcement was made that resturants can open again, Ms Biess said she was not remotely excited about sit-in dining. 

“I’m excited for the restaurants and that they are willing to trade, but I think it’s premature. Most business are hanging on by a thread. We’ve used our threads, and most businesses don’t have back-up. 

“I’m very worried about our future. I don’t know what’s coming, and we cannot sustain our expenses so we are reinventing ourselves. We are opening an online shop, and all our rewards will be available. We are doing decorating parties and we’re moving things online.”

She appealed to businesses to help each other and be kind.

Mohit Sureka, who owned a guesthouse in Gardens, Nomad Bistro as well as a backpackers, had to close all three businesses due to the lockdown. “We don’t foresee 50 percent of the people coming back for a long time, because the coronavirus issue isn’t going away. The tourism sector is suffering, and a lot of businesses in the hospitality sector has collapsed. The industry is disrupted.”

In the meantime, he said they were looking at other business opportunities to earn an income. 

Meanwhile, two entrepreneurs who also closed the door of their restaurant in the CBD, started a new venture which will allow chefs to work in kitchens anywhere and have food delivered via an online delivery app. 

Co-Founder of Food Delivery ZA, Juan Terblanche, said they were in touch with contacts in Spain, and knew early that the lockdown was coming. “We closed our restaurant because we knew the chances of surviving this was slim.”

He said people will not want to go out to eat for the next year or so for fear of contracting coronavirus. 
Restaurants apply to be listed on the app, and food can be ordered for delivery only. “We expect that this is the way forward. Chefs can join from any kitchen just by getting a health and safety certificate, and they won’t have to pay exorbitant rental prices.”

City centre ward councillor Dave Bryant commiserated with businesses in the CBD who have had to close their doors due to the pandemic and lockdown regulations.

“It is unfortunate that certain regulations were not eased earlier by national government but we must all work together now going forward to get as many people back to work as soon as possible.”