The lights go down on another Braamfontein restaurant as South Africa’s rolling blackouts continue unabated. 

Braamfontein hotspot, Leano Restaurant & Live Music, officially closed its doors and turned off its stage lights for the last time on January 18, 2023. 

In a statement posted on Instagram, owners cited several challenges that led to the closure after only thirteen months of operation in Braamfontein.  Keitumetse Molatlhengi, co-owner and manager of the restaurant, cited loadshedding and an ongoing lack of investment support as the biggest catalysts.  

Molatlhengi told Wits Vuvuzela that the effects of loadshedding made operations unsustainable. The establishment, simply known as Leano to patrons, used a generator to ensure business operations continued during loadshedding. So far, South Africans have experienced loadshedding every day this year and a total of 208 days without consistent power last year.  

The business used around 20 litres of diesel over a three-hour period, spending around R1 000 daily, said Molatlhengi, and with the rising costs the business struggled to meet its overheads. 

Absalom Kotsokoane, the executive chef and director, said that the use of a generator affected potential profits. “With that, what’s left is a ‘survival budget’ to keep the lights on – I haven’t even covered overheads and staff salaries”. 

The hustle and bustle in Braamfontein continues around Leano Restaurant & Live Music. Photo: Tannur Anders

The restaurant closed for a period after its December 18, 2022 event and had planned to host its first event of the new year on January 27, 2023. However, Kotsokoane said that a show “means we carry the cost of the entire show and kitchen with an unplanned budget”. This makes it “impossible to keep ingredients fresh, which results in waste, loss of production and damage to equipment”. 

Titi Luzipo, a singer-songwriter, was a regular performer at Leano, even performing at its one-year anniversary. “It is amazing to perform there,” she told Wits Vuvuzela, and witnessing its closure reminded her of The Orbit Live Music & Bistro, which closed a few years earlier. 

The venue provided performers with a full production package. The use of its generator minimised the trauma of the lights going off during a performance, said Luzipo, herself having experienced loadshedding during a show.  

In addition to normal operating hours, the generator also ran after hours to keep ingredients fresh and ensure the alarm remained active. Kgotso Esitang, a waitron of the De Korte Street restaurant said that loadshedding became “vicious”. “[Leano Restaurant & Live Music] was doing very well, but loadshedding is the one… affecting us,” he said. 

Leano Restaurant & Live Music is not the first Braamfontein café to close its doors. Mangrove, a restaurant just two streets away from Leano Restaurant & Live Music, closed shop in October 2022 due to loadshedding and the hostile economic environment.

FEATURED IMAGE: Leano Restaurant & Live Music on De Korte Street, Braamfontein is another victim of loadshedding and South Africa’s fragile economic state. Photo: Tannur Anders