From the CapeTowner, by Monique Duval, 26th May 2011
Following months of complaints about noise, a night-club which operates from a courtyard in Darling Street has become the centre of controversy while the City waits for a court date when it will try to stop Distrix Café from operating. A Caledon Street resident, who only identified himself as E Barnard, said he and his wife were constantly affected by the noise emanating from Distrix Café and said he was shocked to find that it was operating without a Health and Entertainment Licence. “We can’t even watch television in our lounge on Sundays and though our home is quite a distance away, the noise from the parties is unbearable. “The City is aware that the club is operating without the necessary licences so it really is frustrating,” said Mr Barnard who did not want to give his first name for fear of victimisation. Mr Barnard submitted a letter to the City’s health department highlighting his concerns and asking for action against the club. “The noise starts on Sundays in the late afternoons when most people are relaxing before the working week. “When the noise starts we phone the police but it doesn’t help as the music just keeps on until late in the evening and now it is happening on Fridays as well. “There are many night clubs in the surrounding area but none of them is as bad as Distrix Cafe,” he claimed.
Another resident who asked not to be named also raised his concerns with former ward councillor Belinda Walker. In his letter, he said the club repeatedly blasted loud music from its courtyard with total disrespect for the neighbourhood or the soundproof requirements for pubs and clubs, as required by the local authority. “They place their sound equipment in the open courtyard adjacent to their pub and blast their music during the week nights until the early hours of the morning and now lately starting early on Sunday afternoons until late at night. “How can we sleep? The immediate area consists mainly of accommodation and residential establishments,” he said. The resident said the health department asked if they could take noise readings inside his home.“I refused because the club is operating without a licence, so why does the city need noise readings to prove the owner is breaking the law. He is already doing so by operating without a licence,” he said. Mr Barnard said residents were not opposed to clubs in the area but said they needed to adhere to the by-laws. “There are many clubs including The Assembly in the area but they obey the law and have spent a lot of money on soundproofing but others just don’t care. All we want is for them to adhere to the law and soundproof their premises and not cause an inconvenience to their neighbours,” Mr Barnard said.
Richard Luff, the maintenance manager of the Afrikaanse Christelike Vroue Vereeniging (ACVV) frail care centre which is situated behind Distrix Café said he had on several occasions called the Metro Police to see to the problem. “There isn’t noise every weekend but when there are parties, the music is very loud and our patients have difficulty sleeping,” he said. City executive director for health, Dr Ivan Bromfield confirmed that the City had received noise complaints about Distrix Café from residents. “The first complaint was received in September 2010. We instituted action, and in November 2010 the complainant contacted City Health to inform staff that the noise had ceased. But then two more complaints were received in March about loud music from Distrix Café,” he said. Dr Bromfield confirmed that the club was operating without a Health and Entertainment Licence and said that so far it has not applied for one. “A written warning, cease order and a fine was issued in November 2010. When new complaints were received in 2011, documentation was submitted to the City’s Legal Section so that the owner can be summonsed straight to court without the benefit of an admission of guilt fine. We are currently awaiting a court date,” Dr Bromfield said. When asked why the City didn’t close down clubs which were operating without the necessary licences, Dr Bromfield said: “Only a court of law has the authority to close premises for trading without the appropriate business licence. “To this end, all the necessary documentation has been submitted and we are awaiting a court date.
The owner of the building has also told City Health that the tenant does not have the authority to be in the building and an eviction order has been requested from the state attorney.” Shawn Heinrich, the owner of Distrix Café said he was in an eviction battle with the Department of Public Works which owns the building. He said he was sub-letting from the original lessee whom he claims did not inform him of the department’s intentions. “When I took over the lease, I was not informed that he was in an eviction battle with the department. Now we cannot apply for the necessary licences because we don’t have the lease papers,” he said Mr Heinrich admitted to operating without a licence but said once the confusion regarding the lease of the building was sorted he would apply for the necessary licences. He is operating with a temporary liquor licence. “This space has helped to bring people from all over Cape Town into the area. We attract an international crowd. “I feel we are constructively being broken down by the city. We have taken a derelict building that has been empty for years. We have a filthy parking lot which homeless people have made their home. When our patrons leave at night and if we don’t have security, they get robbed in the parking lot. There is dirt all around. This is the entry point to the city but everything around us is dirty. “I feel I have invested a lot of time and intellectual property into these premises,” Mr Heinrich said. Residents complained that the club advertised a party on Sunday May 21 and they said the music was unbearable.
Mr Heinrich confirmed that the event was held and said he was aware that the City is now taking his business to court. When asked why he continued to trade without a licence and why he ignored residents complaints Mr Heinrich said he had invested a lot in the business and if it closes “we will lose our brand”. However Dr Bromfield said copies of lease agreements are not required to process applications for Health and Entertainment licences. “Irrespective of who owns the building, the Businesses Act holds the ‘person in actual or effective control of the business’ responsible for complying with the requirements,” he said. Dr Bromfield said other documentation needed included a noise impact assessment and a noise management plan from an accredited acoustic engineer. “Any soundproofing measures must be certified by the acoustic engineer and must be installed to the satisfaction of the City. The premises must be adequately ventilated in terms of the National Building Regulations.”
● The CapeTowner contacted the Department of Public Works for comment regarding the lease but at the time of going to print, they had not yet responded.
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