A derelict building on Simon’s Town’s main road has been a blight on the area for eight years, with residents fearing it will drive tourists away. But the owner says he has only owned it for three years and has held off repairing it during that time while waiting to get a liquor licence.
The Victorian-style building, known to locals as Dawood, is between a restaurant and a vintage-clothing and gift shop. The gift shop belongs to the same owner, Peter Michaletos.
The area around the Dawood building has become a hot spot for drug dealing and a breeding ground for rats and cockroaches, according to locals.
The building and the one next to it are set to become home to another bottle store, Tops at Spar, and a KwikSpar after the Western Cape Liquor Authority conditionally approved the liquor licence on appeal in June.
On Friday November 16, residents and business owners protested outside the building calling for action to be taken.
They held up placards reading “yes to revival” and “no to decay” as cars hooted and motorists waved. The group chanted “we love Simon’s Town”, “fix this building”, and “fix our town”.
Simon’s Town Business Association chairwoman Liesel Coetzer said the building was both an eyesore and a health hazard.
The association, business owners and residents had complained about it to the City many times but nothing had been done, she said.
Part of the building was boarded up last year but the rest is open to vagrants to occupy.
Ms Coetzer said Simon’s Town businesses relied largely on tourism for their survival.
“With the tourist season ahead, business owners are deeply concerned after a difficult year economically, with an unstable political environment and scares of Day Zero, the whole of Cape Town experienced a large decline in visitor numbers,” she said.
Simon’s Town was rich in history and heritage, with the “safe and tidy village feel” being a big attraction to visitors and residents alike.
“This building is causing enormous damage to surrounding businesses and the health and safety of anyone who comes near it,” she said.
Resident and business owner Lynne Hobson-Jones said the building should be boarded up or knocked down.
“We need action now. It is bringing down the whole town with rats and cockroaches running around and homeless people sleeping in the doorway,” she said.
Resident and guest house owner, Nicola Leitch said many of her guests had commented about the building saying they had seen drug dealing going on and didn’t feel safe in the street at night.
“It is not good for tourism if our visitors feel they can’t walk around at night and have to witness drug dealing taking place,” she said.
Simon’s Town Civic Association member Merle Evertse said they had had many complaints about the homeless sleeping at the building and it was time for the council to act.
“Enough is enough,” she said.
Owner of the vintage clothing and gift shop, Di Busschau, said she had been given notice and would be closing her store of 14 years in December to make way for the new development, which, she said, would spoil Simon’s Town’s character and turn it into a commercial town.
“It is the quaint little shops and good restaurants that attract tourists to our town. They don’t come here for commercial shops,” she said.
She said her landlord, Mr Michaletos, had applied for a liquor licence earlier this year, but it had been denied due to increased traffic congestion, a lack of space for delivery vehicles and the presence of a nearby mosque.
Unbeknown to residents, he appealed the outcome in May and the licence was approved a month later.
“How does one set of objections all of a sudden become invalid?” she said.
She has not found another suitable space to relocate her shop to.
Mr Michaletos said the liquor licence application had taken three years due to the Dawood building’s heritage status. He acknowledged he had been contacted by various people during that time about the maintenance of the building and said he had had it partially boarded up to keep vagrants out.
He said he knew some residents were against the new development but he was convinced it would uplift Simon’s Town and create jobs.
Ward councillor Simon Liell-Cock said an engineer had inspected the building and
reported it was sound, so it could not be condemned.
“I have been on site on numerous occasions with the health, building and problem-building inspectors, and, in terms of the law, all we can do is hold the landlord to account for securing the property,” he said.
He acknowledged that the state of the building had deteriorated since it had been boarded up last year and said an officer was following up with the landlord about that.
He added that the landlord and his agent had earlier been hostile and obstructive due to their liquor licence not being approved.
Mr Michaletos conceded he had been frustrated with the delays in getting the liquor licence. He said work on the bottle store and KwikSpar would start early next year.
Spokeswoman for the Western Cape Liquor Authority (WCLA), Nwabisa Mpalala, confirmed that the licence had been approved condi-
tionally, meaning it was approved pending the submission of other documents required by the WCLA.
Spar spokesman Conway Nesbitt confirmed that the application for the Tops at Spar and the KwikSpar had been approved.