Upset after liquor licence approval

An application for a liquor licence for a function venue in Southern Cross Drive was passed at the recent Protea 20 Sub-council meeting.

This was not well received by neighbours or the 595 people who lodged their objections (“Residents oppose the forum liquor application”, Bulletin, March 9).

Now Constantia Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association (CRRA) are saying that civic organisations such as theirs are increasingly being ignored.

“Because of the political system, our public representatives owe greater allegiance to, and are bound by the decisions of the party on whose ticket they were elected – notwithstanding the fact that they were elected by us, the voters,” they said.

They also complained that the application was “done and dusted in six weeks and all objections in the public participation process ignored”.

Early in March the association launched an online petition against the application. They were initially disappointed that “despite our formal objection, as well as those of nearby residents, the City of Cape Town approved the rezoning of this property to allow it to be used as a function venue”.

The property, which previously housed the Dutch Embassy in Constantia is called The Forum Embassy Hill, and was recently bought by The Forum, a Johannesburg-based company.

In a letter to the Bulletin, Constantia resident Gavin Clayden complained that residents had not been given enough time to comment, with the public participation period closing on Monday March 13.

“Unfortunately they only give 14 days for comment which I think is insufficient time to inform all concerned residents of Constantia. I have already spoken to ward councillor Liz Brunette who has advised that there are already several liquor licences in residential areas of Constantia.”

Sub-council 20 manager Richard White said sub-council members had visited the venue and were satisfied that the owners had taken all necessary measures to mitigate concerns. He added that their references in assessing the application were City by-laws and policies.

However, the CRRA contend that The Forum is in a quiet residential area which would be compromised by noise, traffic and parking, among others. “As it is, the authorities do not have the resources to ‘police’ contraventions. If the frequency and size of events as stipulated in the rezoning conditions of approval are adhered to, then a permanent liquor licence should not be necessary given that corporate functions and weddings are normally paid for by the host. Temporary licences can be applied for as required for once-off events,” said CRRA spokesman John Hesom.

One of the objectors, Dominic Rooney, said one condition of rezoning the property from single use to commercial use was that no public bar was permitted on the property. “My position has been not so much the inconvenience to the immediate neighbours but far more the implications for Constantia as a whole. Of allowing a property in a profoundly residential area to be zoned for commercial use. And to grant the liquor licence which is in breach of their policies and guidelines, to increase the commercial exploitation of Constantia, to the detriment of the residents,” said Mr Rooney.

But Glynis Hyslop, owner of The Forum and a CRRA member, belives it’s “a storm in a teacup”, pointing out that the company hosted “mostly international events”, which were “good for tourism”.

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0She said the venue was restricted to four major events each month and had met all City land use requirements including parking on-site for 100 vehicles and walls to cut out noise pollution, she said.

“We’ve been operating for two years and there have been no complaints during this time. These are all private events. People cannot just drive onto the property and order a drink; it’s only for guests,” she said.

Mr White said he and Sub-council chairperson Ian Iverson would be recommending their approval to the Western Cape Liquor Board for the granting of a liquor license to 89 Southern Cross Drive.

Mr Hesom said they had challenged Ms Brunette on this decision “and the process whereby a sub-committee comprising three people can overrule the opinions of more than 600 residents”.

“She suggested that we visit the property,” he said.

They have asked for a written reply to their objection as well as a copy of the report. “We have questioned why a liquor license can be approved in a residential area within six weeks but when a needs analysis on law enforcement within the area is requested, it does not get done. It was requested in December 2015 and still has not been completed,” said Mr Hesom.

Ms Hyslop said they applied for the liquor licence so that they could make money from sales, but added that she had no idea how long it would take for the liquor board to process the application.