Valley’s ‘dry status’ safe

The entrance to Pick n Pay Fish Hoek in The Arcade.

Fish Hoek’s dry town status is safe after the Western Cape Liquor Authority’s licensing tribunal declined an application by Pick n Pay to open a bottle store in The Arcade, saying it was not in the interest of the public.

The topic has been a contentious issue for many years, with other applications having been turned down due to the historic title deed restriction which prohibits the sale of liquor in Fish Hoek (“Bottle store application for ‘dry’ Fish Hoek,” Echo, January 16, 2017).

In a letter dated Monday June 11, the Western Cape Liquor Authority indicated that the application lodged by Pick n Pay on January 27 last year had been declined in terms of Section 34 (1) (a) of the Western Cape Liquor Act 4 of 2008 which looks at how the application would affect residents in the area, residents of an institution for the aged or frail, residents of an educational institution, people with drug or alcohol dependencies and religious institutions.

The letter also states that the applicant may request further reasons for the decision by the Liquor Licensing Tribunal and may appeal the decision within 21 days.

Donald Moore of Dry Fish Hoek, said Pick n Pay and their attorney failed to inform themselves of the very strict requirement of section 34(a) of the Western Cape Liquor Act which stipulates that: The Liquor Licensing Tribunal may not grant a licence, unless it is satisfied on a balance of probabilities that (a) the granting thereof is in the public interest.

He said Pick n Pay did not provide any evidence to the licensing authority that there was any public support for such an application nor that any benefit could flow to the Fish Hoek community if a bottle store were to be opened.

Mr Moore said it was obvious that the Fish Hoek community did not want a bottle store and there were plenty within easy reach for those who needed to purchase alcohol.

He added that not a single comment had been lodged in support of the application during the objection period, while many objections had.

“If one bottle store licence is granted in Fish Hoek, there will be several more to follow and the Fish Hoek community knows this risk,” he said.

He added that should the owners of Pick n Pay appeal the decision, they would further alienante the Fish Hoek community.

However, Pick n Pay co-owners, Julian Hobson and Gary Williams declined to say whether they would be appealing.

“Once we have received the details of the decision taken by the Liquor Licensing Authority we will have the chance to read what they’ve said,” they indicated.

The Fish Hoek Valley Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association (FHVRRA) said it was pleased with the decision made by the Western Cape Liquor Authority and should Pick and Pay appeal the decision, they are considering a protected march carrying placards to boycott Pick n Pay Fish Hoek.

The association said it also wished to emphasise that all licences for on-premises consumption required that meals be available on the licensed premises at all times that liquor is sold. Liquor may only be sold to and consumed by a person who has purchased a meal.

A post on community Facebook group, Our Fish Hoek about the matter received 200 comments by Monday June 25. It also indicated that not all residents were happy with the outcome.

Some described the decision as “another nail” in Fish Hoek’s coffin referring to the poor state of the Main Road. One said Main Road was more of dump than quaint, and that change was scary for many people but was needed for future sustainability, while another said there were more than 50 liquor licenses in Fish Hoek and questioned how was it better to sit and drink in a bar all day instead of buying a bottle of wine and enjoying it in the privacy of one’s own home.

One comment said that Simon’s Town has had bottle stores for years and had kept its character and beauty. “In my opinion it is not decay and indifference that is keeping Fish Hoek where it is and until this air of snobbery, singularism and monopolistic values eventually expires from natural causes it will always remain in the dulldrams (sic).”

Leigh Palmer, who published the post, told the Echo there was a period of time where comments were being accepted on this issue. The comments, as far as he knew, were not made public and no numbers were quoted in terms of ‘in favour’ and ‘opposed’.

He said he understood that the original title deed was honoured but in reality, Fish Hoek was anything but a dry town as there were numerous pubs and restaurants which sold alcohol.

He said what concerned him was the reason given for declining the application – the public interest.

“That statement needs to be backed up by hard facts, otherwise it is not a valid one. There are too many factors in that statement that need to be qualified,” he said

From an economic perspective, he said, there was a market to service in Fish Hoek, as many people venture to Sun Valley, Glencairn and Kalk Bay to buy liquor, and very often make use of other businesses while out that way, which results in a net loss for Fish Hoek.

He disputes the reason given by some residents that a bottle store in the main road would attract homeless people, beggars and undesirable elements.

“I’m afraid it’s too late. Fish Hoek is already overrun by vagrants, drug dealers and gangsters.

“If you venture to the taxi rank you will find empty vodka, whiskey and brandy bottles strewn on the pavements and roads, all this while Fish Hoek does not have a liquor store. So those concerns, while warranted, would not suddenly materialise with a liquor store, as they are already here,” he said.

He said he would like to see a census conducted which takes into account the wishes of the residents of Fish Hoek.

“The Fish Hoek economy is dying a slow death, which has led to the deterioration of main road in so many ways. I don’t see how opening a respectable liquor outlet will make it worse,” he said.

Western Cape Liquor Authority media spokesman, Nwabisa Mpalala confirmed that the application had been turned down.