OPINION: With tourism on its knees, local spat makes no sense

Tourism on its knees Source: Google Images
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The editor laments, again.

A Stadler Street address in Blouberstrand is like a little piece of heaven.

Its commanding views of Table Mountain and Robben Island, ever changing vistas, shipping movements, water sports and family beach activities on this glorious section of coastline are amongst the best in the world.

The steady awakening of this hidden treasure has caused an increase of footfall of both local and international tourism, and until the COVID-19 lockdown, prosperity for the few businesses plying their trade at the northern end of the Street.

Three restaurants with common ownership / tenancy, dominated the Street – alas one, known as Café Blouberg has closed – maybe due to the pandemic which has hit Cape Town eateries hard.

The other two – On the Rocks (OTR) and Onse Huise have managed to stay afloat and even prosper since lockdown regulations were eased, with the owner no doubt counting their blessings. But there is trouble in the state of Blouberg…

Sitting – figuratively – in between these two icons is a property formally run for the past 17 years as an upmarket guest house. Entrepreneur Jerry Finley, the owner, has said that his business was hit hard during the lockdown as many of his clients were visiting overseas tourists – so hard in fact that he decided to abandon the guest house format and utilise the property in three innovative ways – a store front coffee shop, a soft serve ice cream kiosk and a limited offering beach front dining experience, capitalising on the magnificent views. 

The Council’s zoning of both his property and that of OTR and Onse Huise is GB1, and his application for the change in his business operations have been authorised by the City of Cape Town licencing dept.

Seeing what could only be construed as competition for his businesses, OTR and Onse Huise owner, Advocate Andre Bezuidenhout launched an urgent interdict to prevent Finley’s business – now registered as Lighthouse Trading 47 from “disrupting the applicants business in any form whatsoever” (– does that include fair competition I wonder?) One of which related to the provision of on-site parking even though both OTR and Onse Huise have no on-site parking! All three eateries rely on the 177 public parking bays provided for the very purpose by the Council, to cater for tourism.

Not surprisingly the presiding judge didn’t agree that the matter was urgent – he clearly had many more urgent criminal cases to deal with rather than a spat between two property owners, and the case was postponed until the middle of May 2021. 

In the interim, there has been much mudslinging from the applicants of the interdict which resembles a school yard bullying standoff – ‘my dad will beat your dad; she said, he said’ etc. Some clearly biased reporting in a national newspaper, the encouragement of objections from a couple of residents, and a town planner’s one sided report, added fuel to the fire.

Clearly there are personal sensitivities involved here – but the case’s applicants don’t own the street, despite owning two iconic properties that have been trading for decades and longer in the case the historical landmark, Onse Huise.

Healthy competition will create new business opportunities, add to the local economy, the tax base and create desperately needed jobs.

Sure the neighbours will cry ‘NIMBY’, but two of the three restaurant facilities were there prior to them buying in the area, – four if you count in Café Blouberg – and hey, new developments will only increase the value of their properties.

You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.

Eish.

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