Australian Restaurant Chain Expects to Lose $10 Million to Postpone Reopening Until ‘It’s a One-tier Society’

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A contact tracing QR code is seen at the entrance of a restaurant in Sydney on July 13, 2021. Rashays, a 27-location chain based in Sydney, says it will not reopen its doors when the New South Wales government relaxes restrictions on Oct. 1. Instead, Rashays will wait until Dec. 1 when vaccine passports are scheduled to be scrapped entirely. Co-founder Rami Ykmour said his company expects to lose $10 million during the delay, but feels the sacrifice is worth it for their business values.
A contact tracing QR code is seen at the entrance of a restaurant in Sydney on July 13, 2021. Rashays, a 27-location chain based in Sydney, says it will not reopen its doors when the New South Wales government relaxes restrictions on Oct. 1. Instead, Rashays will wait until Dec. 1 when vaccine passports are scheduled to be scrapped entirely. Co-founder Rami Ykmour said his company expects to lose $10 million during the delay, but feels the sacrifice is worth it for their business values. (Image: Jenny Evans/Getty Images)

A 27-location restaurant chain in Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) state will remain closed after the government relaxes Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) measures on Oct. 11, waiting until the so-called “Freedom Day” where the government plans to scrap vaccine passports on Dec. 1 to reopen.

A co-founder for the chain anticipates it will sacrifice $10 million in the process of delaying reopening.

“It’s not about money at the moment. We’ve lost so much over the last 20 months now, and it’s just something that we’ll wear until it’s a one-tier society.”

Rashays Co-founder Rami Ykmour

Co-founder of Rashays in Sydney, Rami Ykmour, gave the estimate in comments with Epoch Times on Oct. 8 where he said there were two reasons his company intended to delay reopening.

“The first one is obviously a ‘two-tier society.’ That was something I don’t stand for, and I want everyone to have ‘Freedom Day’ on the same day,” said Ykmour. 

“Number two is the safety of our staff. I didn’t want our staff to become security guards, and police officers in a family restaurant environment…I don’t think that’s a role we need to play, and plus, the vaccine passport is not ready, and they’re not in operation.”

Ykmour originally made the announcement on Sept. 27 that Rashays would remain closed until Freedom Day in a video posted to Twitter.

According to Australian Financial Review, NSW is relaxing restrictions on Oct. 11 as a result of former Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s heavy-handed lockdown measures resulting in a dramatic increase in vaccine acceptance.

According to Sydney Morning Herald’s vaccine tracker, NSW went from approximately 1 million of its 8.1 million citizens accepting double doses of vaccination to slightly over 4.8 million between August and October.

The tracker states that more than 75 percent of the state’s eligible population has accepted double injections, and more than 90 percent has accepted single injection. 

On Oct. 1, Berejiklian shocked Australia when she suddenly resigned as Premier after NSW’s Independent Commission Against Corruption announced an investigation into her multi-year secret relationship with former federal MP Darryl Maguire, a man caught in a string of serious conflicts of interest with Chinese Communist Party-affiliated entities.

As of Monday, NSW is allowing non-essential retail businesses to re-open. However, those who cannot flash a vaccine passport will only be able to order takeout from restaurants and will only be able to shop via click and collect.

Measures will be eased further after the state reaches the 80 percent double injected milestone.

Berejiklian often made headlines with her ominous posturing towards the unvaccinated, “Life for the unvaccinated will be very difficult indefinitely,” she said on Sept. 28, according to Reuters.

On Sept. 13, The Guardian quoted the former Premier as saying, “I want to say it clearly that if you’re not vaccinated, you will not have the freedom or the freedoms that vaccinated people have even when we get to 80% double dose.”

“I just want to send the very strong message that don’t assume you’ll get everything that vaccinated people get at 80%.”

However, NSW in an accelerated reopening plan under its new premier Dominic Perrottet is planning to fully reopen on Dec. 1, eliminating both its outdoor mask and vaccine passport requirements, according to a government website.

Ykmour told Epoch Times that delaying Rashays reopening until vaccine passports are eliminated is a simple matter of the chain’s values, “We’ve been in business for 23 years now.”

“We are welcoming to anyone who comes into our business, and our success is based on the fact that you can come in with a pair of shorts or slippers on, and you can feel welcome for dinner. Or you can come in with a nice shirt and nice pants and be treated exactly the same.”

“So, standing at the door and asking people whether they’re vaccinated or not just does not align with our brand,” he said.

As for the $10 million Rashays is expecting to forfeit in the process of postponing reopening, Ykmour said, “It’s not about money at the moment. We’ve lost so much over the last 20 months now, and it’s just something that we’ll wear until it’s a one-tier society.”

“I think there are better days ahead, the losses that we’ve had over the last 20 months—sure, that’s life, that’s business, and it’s not a straight line, if it’s not COVID-19, it could have been something else to our business.”

  • Neil lives in Canada and writes about society and politics.