Restaurant looks for other ways to survive

Trader Luke Ellenbogen

The Alma Cafe – a restaurant and live-music venue in Rosebank – has launched a traders’ market to survive the lockdown knockdown.

The venue has been a feature in the area since the 1960s, but with lockdown it was forced to close along with many other businesses.

The family-run business is starting to right itself now that restrictions are easing, but it hasn’t been easy.

When people were able to move around a little more freely, the business offered customers the chance to pick up meals, and, within two weeks, says general manager Jono Tait, they had shifted almost entirely to food collection rather than deliveries.

“We got curious and asked people why, and the overwhelming response was that people were so mentally drained and craving social contact, that it was such a relief to get out of their house and have somewhere to go and people to talk to.”

He says they’ve had to rework their business model and now run a dinner-delivery kitchen, a baked-home-goods store and now, the latest project, a community market.

“We are effectively starting from the bottom again so business is nowhere near where it was. However, we are incredibly grateful for the support our customers have shown us and kept us able to generate an income of any sort.

“Our goal is simply to survive, by any means at our disposal, until we can reopen our live music venue again.”

They have not received any assistance from government’s small business relief, and were not eligible for UIF or TERS, effectively leaving 13 people without an income, he says.

On Saturday August 1, they held their first market, selling fresh fruit and vegetables, plants and homemade goods.

Two weeks before lockdown, trader Petro Swanepoel’s family moved from Durban to Cape Town for a business venture that didn’t pan out. They had to find another way to support themselves.

Ms Swanepoel now sells her honey and pancake mix at delis and cafes. “The impact of lockdown has been crazy,” she says. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to sell my products and possibly gain more clients from this traders’ market.”

Mr Tait hopes the market will become weekly and include various coffees, preserves and breads.

“Since launching the event, I have had a tremendous response from traders from all around Cape Town looking to get their wares into the market.”