Long Street needs innovative solutions, not more legislation …

From the CapeTowner, by Monique Duval, 8th November 2012

The debate around the sale and consumption of alcohol at the outside tables in Long Street has reached fever pitch with owners of establishments claiming it could have a negative effect on business (“’Kerbing’ boozing”, CapeTowner November 1). The issue was first raised in the ward forum meeting where ward councillor Dave Bryant said there had been ongoing discussions about whether it was legal to drink outside. Owners of bars and pubs were fuming last week after they were fined.

John Davidson from Bob’s Bar said while he wasn’t aware of any new fines being issued this past weekend, he feared the banning of alcohol consumption would not only have devastating effects on his businesses but it could change the vibe of the street. Mr Davidson said if tables and chairs were causing problems relating to crime then the safety aspect should be dealt with, taking away the tables wouldn’t solve the problem.

“The tables outside add to the vibe of Long Street and banning the sale and consumption of alcohol could prove detrimental to business. It’s important for authorities to understand that all of this is linked. “If you take away the tables and move drinking inside, the businesses will see a loss of income and so it will affect the amount of staff we employ, for example. It also part of what Long Street is about, who wants to come to a pub and be forced to have a beer inside on the hot summer days,” he said.

Graham Albone, co-owner of Mojitos agreed and estimated that if he could not serve alcohol at the outside tables he would have lay off at least three staff members. “In Europe you can have a drink at the outside tables so why not in a city like Cape Town? “As long as the tables are not hampering pedestrian flow then I don’t see what the issue is,” he said. Mr Albone said that according to the leasing form he received from the City of Cape Town he had permission to have six tables outside his establishment and said there was no indication on the lease that he couldn’t serve alcohol out-side.

“Mojitos has been open for a while now and I have never been told it’s a problem. I really don’t understand why it’s an issue and I don’t understand why the focus is on Long Street. “Yes, there are crime issues but it’s not related to the tables and chairs, I have seen more bag snatchings inside establishments than outside,” he said. Darren Gunn, a manager at the Dubliner said while the issue of serving alcohol on the pavements didn’t really affect them as they stopped serving alcohol outside at 11pm, he believed taking it away is a “bad idea”. In previous comment Mr Bryant said serving alcohol on the pavements was illegal and that the City was looking at implementing a new leasing system to make provision for the consumption of alcohol at the outside tables.

However, when asked for clarity on the legality of the outside tables Philip Prinsloo, spokesperson for the Western Cape Liquor Authority, said it wasn’t illegal as long as establishments had permission to do so. He explained that permission to trade on the pavement is given by the City, which stipulates the conditions. “When applying for a liquor licence, applicants attach the letter from the City of Cape Town. Part of the requirements is for the applicant to hand in a comprehensive floor plan and site plan. If they are trading lawfully, they should not be penalised,” he said. Mr Prinsloo explained that if the application is granted the tables are marked as part of the designated liquor area so establishments that have permission from the licensing tribunal cannot be fined.

Mr Bryant said he had held meeting with mayoral committee member for economic, environment and spatial planning, Alderman Belinda Walker, about the issue. “We are waiting for legal opinion and while there have been proposals like marking the trading area we need to hear the legal opinion before we do anything. “We want to put a system in place to ensure that establishments are compliant and we certainly don’t want to take the tables away,” Mr Bryant said.

Long Street resident and research and design consultant Byron Qually believes that a creative approach and innovative solutions can be found that suits pubs and clubs as well as the authorities. He said as a resident who frequents the coffee shops and restaurants on Long Street, he didn’t have a problem with alcohol consumption on the pavements and didn’t agree with the notion that the tables are a crime generator. He agreed with establishments that the banning of alcohol at the outside tables would take away from the vibe of Long Street and said the unique open socialisation between establishments and even pedestrians is key to Long Street’s character and success.

“The use of legislation and by-laws to resolve concerns appears to be the primary approach by the City. Many of these laws are antiquated and date back to a very different Cape Town, and the by-laws tend to top-up rather than bring a new approach to problem resolution. “There is no clear design answer to the problem of crime in Long Street, though there are many process that can be used to help find one, for example participatory design. Similarly the issues we are facing are not unique, and many international design against crime initiatives have been set up. “As these examples note, the solutions that design could bring is not by subtraction, but by addition. In other words, with creative approaches and innovative solutions, an inclusive solution can be found that suits the Long Street community.”

Copyright Cape Community Newspapers, part of Independent News and Media.

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