From the CapeTowner, by Monique Duval, 14th January 2011
A group of businesses that includes pubs, clubs and restaurants in the city centre will be applying for an interdict to prevent the City of Cape Town from implementing the controversial Liquor Trading Hours By-law. The group has met with its lawyers and will be questioning the constitutionality of the by-law. The group known as the Club, Bar and Restaurant Association (CBRA) held a meeting at the Chrome nightclub last week to discuss the issues. Shaan Nordien, owner of Chrome nightclub, said although the association had made submissions and presentations during the comment period, it had not received a response from the City. Mr Nordien met with the association’s legal team on Monday January 10 to discuss the case. “Our lawyers believe we have a strong case and we will be handing a letter to the City soon highlighting the association’s intentions,” Mr Nordien said. He said the main concern of the association was the stipulated cutoff time, which will force all establishments to stop selling alcohol at 2am. He said this will lead to a reduction of trading hours for all establishments. “We are not against the regulation of liquor sales, but this by-law will kill the industry and lead to loss of jobs. We are all licensed establishments and have been operating for years. This is going to cost us millions of rand but we have the funds and we are going to fight this,” Mr Nordien said. He said the interdict would only protect the association’s members. “It is a blanket interdict and will protect all members and establishments who are part of the association, others will not be included,” he said. He said the association’s legal team had found several loop-holes in the by-law and would be proceeding with the application. He said the association would also be suing the City for loss of income following the announcement that the by-law would be enforced on New Year’s Eve.
In a statement released by the City on Tuesday December 28, Councillor Taki Amira, chairperson of the Liquor Policy task team, said that at midnight on New Year’s Eve the bylaw would come into effect. “This means that bars and clubs in business areas will have to close by 2am on Saturday January 1. Those watering holes in or close to residential areas, which may currently enjoy late trading hours, will have to abide by the new legislation and close by 11pm,” he said. However, on Thursday December 30 the City said the by-law would not be implemented immediately but would be “phased in”. “The City would like to allay fears of club and restaurant owners with regards to the enforcement of the City’s new Liquor Trading Days and Hours By-Law. “The by-law will be phased in over the next few months and will not be stringently enforced until all role players have been extensively educated and informed about the new legislation.”
City Safety and Security executive director Richard Bosman said during the initial implementation of the by-law the City’s law enforcement agencies will register complaints from the public and keep a record for future reference. “The City will also register and review the complaints of those affected by the by-law to see how these can best be addressed. “With the implementation of the new smoking regulations the approach taken by law enforcement was first education, support and warning during the initial phase. “This is the approach we will follow with this legislation as well,” Mr Bosman said. However, club owners claim the “damage had already been done” as the initial statement was widely published and deterred party goers from coming into the city.
Vusa Mazula, owner of Zula Sound Bar, said he was annoyed that the first statement was made. “It feels like the whole thing was engineered. How can the City make such a huge statement and then turn around and change its tune? “This by-law will not only have a negative impact on businesses in the city centre but will negatively impact on tourism. “Most party goers only come into the city at 11pm. The busiest time for most clubs is between 1am and 4am. By reducing the hours for the sale of liquor most establishments will effectively only have one hour of trading,” Mr Mazula said. He said the by-law would see businesses run at a loss and in his view clubs will have to implement staff cuts. Mr Amira confirmed that the association had made submissions to about the by-law, but said he was not informed of the letter. He said the by-law was modelled on the Liquor Bill and based on research conducted in other cities around the world.
And while clubs, pubs and restaurants are in a froth over the new by-law, residents have welcomed it. Siranne Ungerer said she hoped the implementation of the by-law would lead to less drunken behaviour and noise in Long Street “We experience noise from the drunken patrons leaving the clubs and pubs and we also have a lot of fights. There are also people urinating in the street and on the pavement around us. “We’ve had our windows broken four times in the last two years due to people fighting and then falling against them,” Ms Ungerer said. One resident, who asked not to be named as she was currently involved in a dispute with a club in Long Street, said she supported the by-law as she hoped it would help to reduce the nuisance caused by noisy party goers.
Piers Allen, who has been living in Long Street since 1997, said he “whole-heartedly” supported the by-law and hoped it would improve the quality of life for residents.“It is with increasing dismay that we have experienced the night-environment being taken over by raucous clubs and bars that have no regard whatsoever for residents or passersby. “We have been fighting a losing battle, together with others including hotels and hostelries, trying to gain the support and assistance of the City to control excessive public noise and nuisance, which arises from so many drinking venues and the excessive consumption of alcohol. “This community-minded effort has seemingly had little appreciable effect on officers of the council: on the contrary – things have worsened considerably over the last 14 years,” Mr Allen said.
In his blog, Constitutionally Speaking, constitutional law expert, Pierre de Vos labels the by-law as “reactionary, misguided and counter productive”. “It is reactionary because it is based on a Christian Nationalist attitude which assumes that we should all go to bed at 2am, that having access to alcohol in a public place after 2am would somehow turn us all into evil sinners and that God will punish us if we were allowed to buy liquor on a Sunday,” he said. The by-law was misguided, in that, “it assumes that if one prohibits the sale of liquor after 2am this will somehow address the scourge of alcoholism and drugs in our community. This is, of course, a completely irrational and mistaken assumption. “Anyone who had visited the United Kingdom at the time when all bars were forced to close at 11pm would know that earlier closing times for bars and pubs do not necessarily prevent people from getting very drunk and making fools of themselves. “There is no evidence to back up the assumptions underlying this by-law,” he said. CBRA members met at Chrome nightclub yesterday, Wednesday January 12, to further discuss the issue, but at the time of going to print the outcome of this meeting was not known.
Copyright Cape Community Newspapers, part of Independent News and Media.