Unwitting contradiction in the City wanting residents to …

From the CapeTowner, by Monique Duval, 19th April 2012

There have been mixed reactions to the new liquor policy which will allow pubs, clubs and other establishments to apply to extend their trading hours. The policy, which was explained to councillors at the Good Hope Sub-council meeting, on Monday April 16, will allow for establishments to extend their trading hours to no later than 4am, provided they fulfil certain requirements.

Sub-council chairman, Taki Amira, said the policy followed the amendments to the Liquor Trading Days and Hours By-Law which came into effect on Sunday April 1. According to the Act the trading hours for the sale of liquor are to be stipulated by the municipality. The cut-off time was 2am but the bylaw was amended to allow onconsumption premises to apply for an extension to trade until 4am, provided they meet the criteria set out by the City. But the City has to consult with the ward councillor, ratepayers’ associations and residents before it can grant an extension.

Christa Hugo from the City’s health department explained how the policy will work. She said only establishments which fall in business or industrial nodes may apply for the extensions. “The application will work in two parts, the first part will require establishments to go to the Land Use Management Department to ensure that their property is zoned correctly. “If they are not, their application will not be considered.

The applicant will then have to go to the Metro Police and Law Enforcement to get clearance from these departments to see whether they have contravened any laws regarding noise, liquor or whether there have been complaints against their business,” she said. Establishments will then have to pay a R5 000 application fee which will be processed by the health department. City health will then forward the application to the subcouncil, who will get feedback from the community before making a decision on whether to grant the application,” Ms Hugo said. Mr Amira said the policy will apply to new liquor licences and renewals.

Ward councillor Dave Bryant said: “This is a positive step. In areas such as Long Street there are legitimate businesses who would qualify for the extension.” “The City will not be granting extensions willy nilly and will consult the community on these applications. The new laws call for liquor traders to become more responsible,” Mr Bryant said.

Vusa Mazula, co-owner of Zula Bar in Long Street said he felt he had no choice but to apply for the extension. “With the way business is in Cape Town, we must apply for the extension. The 2am cut-off time was simply too early and would have killed our business. I think the application fee of R5 000 is a bit steep but I welcome the policy and the amendments to the by-law as it is giving us a fair chance,” he said.

Residents however, have slammed the new policy as they feared it would not be policed properly. Buiten Street resident Geoff Madsen said he thought the extension should only be given to compliant businesses. “The extension policy adds noise, security and criminal activity to the area. “Research should be done on who the patrons are at that time of morning and what economic value the city and businesses achieve for the extra two hours of operation,” he said.

Residents had enough problems with clubs that traded until 2am, said one woman who did not want to be identified. “This refers to the noise and music a nightclub produces, but also to noise generated by patrons inside and outside the venue. “Patrons tend to be loud while walking to their cars, they laugh, giggle and shout. I often find myself looking forward to 2am because I know that the music will be turned off and that there will be fewer people shouting in the street “If the City did grant an extension till 4am, I think that this could only be done if venues with full soundproofing and a venue that has never had a noise complaint. “I don’t know of a single properly soundproof venue in the city and I also cannot think of a single venue that has not been complained about. “Further, if the City is already struggling to control and enforce the law on existing clubs with a 2am cut-off time, I sincerely doubt they will be able to enforce further laws to a 4 am cut-off time. Plain and simple, bad idea,” she said.

Byron Qually, convenor of the Long Street Residents’ Association said the knock-on effect of the liquor trading hours was the problem not the by-law. “In principle, the extension seems to suit bars, clubs and residents. “However, from our experience with City by-laws and even basic licensing, the management and follow through of policy, particularly if it involves City Health, is highly questionable,” he said.

Janis Ross, said the trustees of the Ross Family Trust which and owns Maremoto in Long Street will object vehemently and rigorously to any extension of trading hours for the clubs surrounding their business which are causing severe noise problems.

A hotel manger who refused to be named due to threats from nearby clubs, said the extensions should not be granted. “I don’t see why there is a need for people to drink until 4am. There are businesses in Long Street that already trade until 4am without having any of the special licenses. I doubt very much that it will be policed properly or whether our complaints and objections will be taken seriously.

Clearly the bars, pubs and nightclubs are more important than the residents and accommodation establishments,” she said. Community Police Forum (CPF) chairman, Henry Giddy, said the extension was a good idea as it helped give residents a better chance to have their say. “Residents now need to empower themselves and make their voices heard on applications. The extension policy gives the power to residents and I would definitely label it as an enabler. “The liquor forum will also look closely at these applications and communicate with the community and when necessary, we will object,” he said.

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

In a follow up letter to the article above, Liquor policy Patrick Labrosse, Vicechairman, City Bowl Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association Regarding the Liquor extension policy. As usual, the devil is in the detail. Whether the cut-off time is 2am or 4am is only a question of degree in the inconvenience to residents.

In theory, this policy reads as reasonable and workable. But the club owners – the prime source of complaints – have been exceedingly good at ignoring the law and dragging any process on to their advantage (unlike the affected residents, club owners can afford the legal teams for dilatory tactics).

Some events organisers have also been guilty of ignoring agreed-upon hours and noise levels. The City needs the will to enforce the regulations; the muscle to enforce them; quick reaction times to discourage tentative offenders to try their luck.

Latest information indicates that this is the intention and the policy should lead to better coordination between the SAPS, the City and other parties. Added pluses are that the community will have to be consulted through the ward councillors, the ward committees, the ratepayers, and advertising to directly affected neighbours.

There is also the new ALF (Area Liquor Forum) just coming into life. And, together with a couple of added legal changes that should help, the maximum fine has been increased to R1 million. So it does seem that the City is giving itself the legal muscle to deal with problem establishments. It is also understood that the effect will not be felt immediately but progressively through liquor licence renewal applications.

There is an unwitting contradiction in the City wanting residents to return to the CBD but failing to date to ensure the conditions for residential life there and allowing clubs to defeat that aim. In the name of property redevelopment and bringing life back to parts of the CBD areas, the City has allowed after-hours leisure businesses to proliferate to the point where residents are considering moving out.

A single, wild-cat club can affect several blocks and hundreds of residents, so property developers should – and most likely do – welcome a policy that appears to want to deal with the problem. But only experience will show how effective these measures are. The other side – the errant club owners – are often brazen and do not lack resources and the affected residents are the ones on the front lines in this long battle.

Effectiveness will therefore require every part to function as intended and sustainably, including, of course, last but not least, the courts.

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

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