The Overstrand is pulling out all the stops to make the coming summer season a success for local businesses, while at the same time ensuring that lockdown restrictions are adhered to.

Work is underway on the upgrading and pedestrianisation of High Street as envisaged in the Hermanus Old Town revitalisation project. The area from the Dirkie Uys/High Street intersection to Woolworths is currently closed to vehicular traffic, but open to pedestrians. The existing kerbs and road asphalt have been removed and paving of the street will commence at the end of the week. The road will not be re-tarred but will be paved to create more walkway space for people, while at the same time allowing businesses to spill out onto the street. PHOTO: Hedda Mittner

“In a bid to afford restaurants the ability to welcome more guests while adhering to social distancing protocols, we are launching the Seats on the Streets campaign,” said Mayor Dudley Coetzee. The campaign will allow restaurants to apply for permission to seat customers on pavements and other public areas, thereby creating more space and seating while ensuring the safety of customers. This arrangement will be applicable to all towns in the Overstrand.

“It is expected that the campaign will be approved at the next council meeting on 25 November. It will be proposed that for the period 16 December to 17 January restaurants will not be charged rental by the municipality for the extra space. It will also be proposed that should it be successful the Seats on the Streets campaign will be extended to 5 April (Easter Monday) next year,” Coetzee said.

“From the council’s side, this campaign is aimed at assisting businesses to cope with the burden that the Covid-19 pandemic has heaped upon them. In addition, the council has agreed that no rent will be collected from restaurants that make use of property belonging to the municipality for the period that they could not trade due to lockdown restrictions,” he said.

Frieda Lloyd, Tourism Manager for the Cape Whale Coast, said the campaign would contribute to an even more festive and relaxed atmosphere during the holiday season. “All businesses in the area are under severe financial strain and the time has come for us to think of new and innovative ways in which to attract customers while keeping them safe.

“The Seats on the Streets campaign ties in with our bigger #weareopen campaign launched earlier this year to draw visitors back to our shores. The campaign has been highly successful, and the Whale Coast can look forward to being a hive of activity during the season, with only a few options for holiday accommodation still available.

“To give you an example, one booking received by the owner of a holiday home, exceeded R500 000 in total and has already been paid. In addition to several sizable bookings for accommodation, there have also been enquiries about opportunities for film shoots in our region during the summer. The extended holiday season running from 16 December to 26 January is bound to boost our local economy,” Lloyd said.

Cllr Kari Brice said close attention would be paid to not impeding the flow of pedestrian traffic on pavements and providing enough parking for cars. “The message of the campaign is that our restaurants are open for business; we miss our patrons, and we are inviting people back to visit. But top of mind is that safety protocols – such as the wearing of masks, use of sanitiser, social distancing, and responsible behaviour – are adhered to.”  

Brice said the campaign was one way to offer practical options in support of businesses and residents. “This will hopefully become the blueprint from which other campaigns can be launched in future. We have a collective responsibility to ensure that our businesses can keep their doors open.”

Restaurants pledge to adhere to restrictions

Cllr Brice said a perfect example of creating a pedestrian-friendly environment would be High Street in Hermanus Old Town. “Work has begun on the upgrading and pedestrianisation of the street as envisaged in the Old Town revitalisation project.”

The area from the Dirkie Uys/High Street intersection to Woolworths is currently closed to vehicular traffic, but open to pedestrians. The existing kerbs and road asphalt have been removed and paving of the street will commence at the end of the week. The road will not be re-tarred but will be paved to create more walkway space for people, while at the same time allowing businesses to spill out onto the street. 

According to the revitalisation project, High Street will be transformed into a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly retail street that connects the current ‘anchors’ of Station Square and Woolworths with the proposed Mitchell Square Development. “High Street will be landscaped to create a high-quality pedestrian-priority mall. Traffic circulation within the CBD does not allow for the exclusion of all vehicular traffic from High Street, however there is a lot of scope for transforming the street into a pedestrian-dominated space, while still allowing traffic to pass through,” states the project description.

Brice said she was excited about the impetus this initiative would give to the broader economic recovery plans for the CBD. “As we head into the warmer weather with the annual summer break about a month away, this will help our eateries to start recovering from the challenges of lockdown.”

The construction work for the installation of an upgraded stormwater system in Main Road and Dirkie Uys Street is close to completion. The resurfacing should be done by the end of the week and the parking area has been reopened.

In addition to the Seats on the Streets campaign, the Overstrand is also expected to launch a Safe Eat Pledge that all participating restaurants will display. The aim of the pledge is to remind customers of the threat of Covid-19 and to offer reassurance that safety protocols are adhered to in these establishments.

Lloyd said compliance with lockdown restrictions and a strict adherence to safety protocols have become a selling point for restaurants across the globe. “Diners want the peace of mind to know that the establishments they visit are safe. Non-compliance has become a hot topic, especially on social media, and we have decided in conjunction with restaurant owners to be proactive. According to the provisions of the pledge, restaurants will adhere to social distancing regulations, the health of staff will be closely monitored and diners are requested to wear masks while not seated at a table.  Customers’ details will also be taken to ensure ease of contact tracing should this be necessary.

“Pledge posters will also be developed for the accommodation and retail sectors and all businesses are welcome to take part,” added Lloyd. “The Whale Coast has a responsibility towards its businesses, residents and visitors to be a safe place. We must be proactive if we want to have a busy summer season and avoid any sudden outbreaks of the Coronavirus.” 

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