Deli in the hot seat

Erf 2134, Oubaas Cafe and Chardonnay Deli on Constantia Main Road.

A Constantia restaurant is operating illegally and has dangerous parking, according to a ward report by councillor Liz Brunette.

The report was tabled at the Protea 21 Sub-council meeting last month.

The Constantia Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association (CRRA) says it’s been an issue since at least 2014.

An October 2016 post on the association’s Facebook page describes traffic access to and from the property as “totally dysfunctional” and claims temporary signage “does not conform to Road Traffic Act standards”.

The post also notes that the association’s past chairman, Neil McCarthy, witnessed a serious incident there on Friday October 28 2016, as well as close calls on other occasions.

Chardonnay Deli is on a bend in Constantia Main Road, on the left when driving towards the Nek and just before Groot Constantia Road.

A Simon van der Stel Foundation plaque states that the High Constantia complex was once the site of the first Anglican chapel and school, built in 1860/61, in the Constantia Valley. It was demolished in 1953.

When the Bulletin visited on Friday afternoon of September 1, a group of people waiting for minibus taxis beneath tall pine trees stood next to the restaurant. A taxi driving from the direction of Constantia Nek crossed the double lane road, avoiding fast-moving oncoming traffic to pick them up.

The following week, on the rainy afternoon of Thursday September 7, the parking area was almost deserted. Staff at neighbouring businesses in High Constantia said the few crashes along this stretch of road that they could recall had been at the junction to Groot Constantia.

A security guard at Oubaas Store said he had worked there many years but had not witnessed crashes in front of Chardonnay Deli.

A City of Cape Town senior traffic engineer, Tim de Villiers, said it would be very difficult to determine the absolute location of crashes at the deli as it was in a lay-by and might be recorded as an unidentified location on the stats.

However, the deli’s owner, Charmaine Anne Lilje, said she had seen a crash near the restaurant earlier in the year between a security van and a delivery truck, and Ms Brunette told the Bulletin she had received complaints from residents about traffic management and crashes on Constantia Main Road since the deli opened at the old ADM store.

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Ms Brunette said the restaurant was using the leased council land between it and High Constantia for a parking area with no approved traffic management plan.

“And the restaurant is operating illegally without approved building plans. A large portion of the existing building has been converted into a restaurant/deli, and a shed has been erected for related storage. The building is about 100 years old and is a grade IIIC heritage resource,” said Ms Brunette.

However, Nick Lightbody tells a different story. He said the Lightbody family had acquired the ADM Superette building in 2013 and had not changed its footprint. And while many meetings had been held with the CRRA, specialist architects, heritage practitioners and the City’s roads and transport officials, the family had continued in its quest to get things right, meanwhile paying a serious amount of money in fines.

“But the story about illegal business use goes back to 1905, the last time that the property changed hands, when owned by the Dawood family. It’s a story about the building, its heritage as part of the Constantia Valley and how it survived the Group Areas Act,” said Mr Lightbody.

When the Lightbodys bought the building, it was in ruin. The family’s goal, said Mr Lightbody, was to renovate, retaining its historical connection to the area and “encouraging families who were forcibly removed to return and enjoy the building”.

Ms Lilje said she had shared the family’s dream. Not long after the Lightbodys bought the building, she drove past and knew that was where she wanted to be. At that time, she had been running a catering business but was looking for something new.

Nine months later, she moved in, on December 21, 2014, having taken five days to set up the deli.

People wanted food, and she fed them from paper plates as they perched on the veranda. She now employs 40 staff in the bakery, deli and restaurant.

She said that before she had moved in, the place had been derelict with rotten walls and swollen floors. With the renovations, she had wanted an old Cape farm stall feel and opted to keep as much of the original shell as possible.

The Bulletin asked Heritage Western Cape to comment but they referred us to the City’s media office, which did not respond by deadline.

A letter to the Lightbody family from the City’s heritage department, dated October 2014, says the building is part of a study to proclaim the Constantia/Tokai Valley Winelands as a World Heritage Site.

“This is one of few buildings not demolished under the Group Areas Act because the Dawood family stayed on,” the letter says.

It notes also that the building is on a scenic drive and associated with the Cloete family, who owned Groot Constantia and are highly prominent residents.

The building has functioned as a shop since 1901 and retained its core business for 100 years.

Mr Lightbody was excited that during renovation a box of documents fell from the roof, invoices, letters in Arabic, a marriage certificate and more. These have been carefully reproduced and adorn walls of the building as well as copies of pictures from the Dawood family.

Ms Lilje said the property was passed down from one generation of Dawood sons to the next. The last owner is Ishak “Obaas” Dawood who continues to sell samoosas, pies and other popular items from the tiny store adjoining Chardonnay Deli.

It is presently under renovation and Mr Dawood is in Mecca.

Ms Lilje asks everyone to be patient. “We’re on the home stretch. I’ve seen the plans for the intersection and it looks amazing. It’s about making sure it’s done properly, that we institutionalise Chardonnay Deli so it’s around forever,” she said.

Mr Lightbody showed the Bulletin the latest traffic management plan for the section between Pagasvlei Road and Price Drive and said a contractor would be appointed soon.

He said there would be a public participation process, but he did not know when, adding, “We are almost there. We want people who were forcibly removed from the area to return, with their families,” he said.

Ms Brunette told the Bulletin another traffic management plan is set for early October.

CRRA manager John Hesom said that in October 2016 it undertook an independent traffic study of the entire node from Pagasvlei Road to Belair Drive taking into consideration existing properties and the proposed Schoenstatt retirement village. “Now we are pushing for a traffic circle at the Groot Constantia junction,” Mr Hesom told the Bulletin.

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