Having renovated my property that I dubbed The Twin Chimneys, I was approached by a Bellville, Cape Town, businessman to hire it as a place of entertainment. Envisaging the location on the main street as the perfect place for a restaurant/bar, I had put in a yellowwood bar-counter, a secure lock-up store, a scullery for washing glasses, a ladies and gents set of toilets, a substantial kitchen as well as an office-cum-bedroom for a manager, complete with shower and toilet.
Martin Ekard, the owner of a successful grass-mowing company, and mentor for a minor league Bellville soccer team, was married to a lady with Haarlem connections. He was keen to start a business in Haarlem due to having family there as well as providing work opportunities for a handful of local folk. His wife’s nephew, a budding DJ, Reagan, would manage it and set it up in the Twin Chimneys, the perfect place.
Equally keen to provide local employment, and with a lot of enthusiasm, I agreed. I gave them six months at a reduced rental to obtain their licences. We signed an agreement to that effect, in 2011.
The place was painted out in bright colours, two big sports-bar wall TVs were installed, and a band-stand/DJ-booth with night club lighting was set up. Security lighting was erected outside. It all looked very promising.
Four-place tables with barstool seating were bought and an introductory lunch for the village “stalwarts” was arranged to explain the purpose of the venue. Cooldrinks and hot-dogs were served. A journalist/ photographer, the editor of The Outshoorn Courant, Hannes Visser, kindly agreed to attend and report on the project. The local ANC Councillor of the time, Martin Wildeman, declined his invitation, as, he later told me, he was dead against the establishment of a bar in the village, despite the fact that there were about ten illegal taverns there.
When it was explained that, as there was no legal pub in the village, party-goers were driving to Uniondale to the west, 25km away, or to Joubertina 50km to the east. The ensuing DUI resulted in several deadly traffic accidents over the years. The “stalwarts”, or village elders, applauded this obvious solution by having its own legal place of entertainment which would be subject to law and order.
Some time later, Councillor Wildeman, who was helping to block their pursuit of licences, came to my home in a fury to demand I do not allow the property to become a pub as he didn’t want a den of iniquity in Haarlem. We sat on my veranda and I got him to introduce himself.
“Ah, pleased to meet you at last, Mr. Wildeman. So you are the fellow who could have assisted our little village to get a licensed establishment rather than all these unlicensed shebeens? You have probably done several Haarlemmers out of employment, too. Pity. You could have been a hero.”
After a chat where he calmed down, he left, admitting he had come in anger but was leaving with a lot to think about. The applications had no more resistance from him, but sadly, the damage had already been done. The DA Councillor who replaced him was no help at all, but the next Councillor, ANC’s Mike Daniels, was much more helpful.
The process of applying for licences began, with various so-called expert agents promising to sort it out. One by one they were found to be chancers as the months and years crawled by. At last, late in April 2013, Reagan and Martin to contact me for the meeting they want about rezoning the Twin Chimneys when an advocate from George, an ex-councillor, offered to deal with it. Relieved, Martin Ekard set up a meeting with him at my home. The advocate was Fareed Stemmet.
They finally got their act together at 16h00, bringing a so-called lawyer with them,
- They would deal with the application for a booze licence.
- I must apply for rezoning. (I had started this.)
- They thanked me for not applying the increase in rent that the original contract indicated.
- Stemmet would send me the name of official in George Municipality to deal with new drawings. I would pass this on to a local draughtsman.
- Stemmet would send me a form template for neighbours’ objection waivers.
- Reagan would get these signed.
- I would find out if the Heritage Commission need be involved in old building preservation.
Having a bad feeling about the glib-mouthed advocate, I did some research on Fareed Stemmet. Interesting! (I Googled Stemmet and found that he is ex-mayor [Acting] of Eden District Municipality and had been disbarred for three years, until 1 March 2015 as an Advocate, for dishonesty. He had taken on several clients from whom he had taken down-payments, but then done nothing to help them. The document states that the Judge, handing down sentence, declared that Stemmet was “economic with the truth”! I love that!)
Reagan held parties on Saturday nights at the Twin Chimneys to bring in a little income, with himself as DJ. His posters read: Bring your own XYZ. The volume was, stupidly, loud enough to attract objection, albeit from only one person. A white man living a block from the Pub, as it was coming to be known, became irate.
Early in September 2012, at 02h00 in the morning, Peter Brady phoned to complain about beat noise from the Twin Chimneys so I phoned Reagan to ask him to turn it down. After a sleepless hour, I pettily thought of phoning Brady to wake him up and ask if the music was quieter. Silly old fossil. Two weeks later, I was awoken by a phone call from Peter Brady at midnight but I didn’t bother to answer it as it was doubtless a complaint about noise from the Pub. I took to switching my phone off when I heard the beat start up.
Sometimes, when I turned it back on, there would be coarse vindictive messages from Brady. In December, with school holiday teenagers in party mode, Brady called the police which resulted in a written complaint which was forwarded to the Municipality to add to the application files, which retarded the process even more. The police paid me a visit to give me a copy of the notice to Reagan to not allow him to hold his discos.
The rezoning application continued into mid-2014 and cost me R9000-00, after which I got a letter confirming that the plot was now zoned as Commercial. Reagan and Martin Ekard were given copies and continued trying to get licences for a Place of Entertainment. These continued to be blocked. Eventually it became apparent that the letter was not sufficient; we needed a Certificate for an extra R150-00. I was furious that the Certificate had not been issued with the letter. A trip to George by the new Harlem Councillor resulted in a Certificate being issued, but it turned out to be a Residential Zone certificate. When I went down personally, they said they had mislaid my files. Lost them! Finally, they reluctantly issued a Commercial Certificate based on the fact that that section of Haarlem had been designated for rezoning to Commercial anyway!
A drought in Cape Town almost put Ekard’s mowing company out of business. Unable to continue paying the rent, and never having increased it year by year as our contract agreed, in sympathy for his not getting the licences, we decided to call it a day. Calculating the difference between what I should have received in rent, and what I did in fact receive, I was out of pocket by R120,000-00.
Now, in 2019, the place sadly lies empty. I have put it on the Net for sale.
Last week a vandal broke 16 window panes…