Restaurant in the firing line over racism
KALK BAY residents and business owners have lifted the lid on what they describe as years of discriminatory practices by the Brass Bell restaurant, blocking access for mainly Cape Flats families from the harbour beach over the festive season.
Talking to The Star this week, they claimed that since 2012, the Brass Bell has gradually made access to the beach and public toilets more difficult, going as far as hiring a bouncer in 2013 to control access. After an outcry, the bouncers were swiftly removed, they alleged.
On New Year’s Day, beachgoers were furious that people mainly from the Cape Flats had been blocked from accessing a public toilet and tidal pool near the restaurant.
The gate was later reopened by law enforcement officials, with authorities saying control over the gate rested with harbour master Shafiek Ebrahiem.
While management initially denied claims that they had control over the gate, residents say they were told to ask the Brass Bell’s management for a key to access it.
Resident Steve Herbert said the gate had been locked since Christmas Day, in a frustrating trend. “On January 1, I found the gate locked and two metro police on the other (harbour) side. They told me the manager had the key and would open it for me – the manager could not be found.
“When I asked why the gate was locked, they said it was to control access and alcohol being brought onto the beach. I said that surely the gate could be open and the two of them could control anyone coming though. Obviously any family laden with kids, blankets, food etc would be intimidated and turn back,” he said. The gate was still locked on January 3.
While there had been a successful effort by all role-players to keep the beach safe and clean, and traffic free flowing and safe for pedestrians, the gate had caused unhappiness, Herbert added.
“You have to see it through the eyes of one of the families from Bonteheuwel, out for the day with the whole family, with their blankets. They come down the stairs, come up the other side and here’s this wall of white people sitting having breakfast, and it’s intimidating. And then there’s a gate that’s locked.”
Business owner Antonio Burger said he felt the restaurant did not want people from the Cape Flats in close proximity to its customers, as it could be seen as bad for business.
“They will never stop someone who knows their rights. They will stop someone who feels intimidated and will just walk away and move on. They know it works. They make the underprivileged people feel uncomfortable,” he said.
Mary-Ann Naidoo, who flagged the incident on social media, said that through gentrification, Kalk Bay was seeing the encroachment of public spaces to make way for growing business, ultimately pushing those of colour away.
“January 1 and 2 are two days in the entire year that people from Bonteheuwel and Manenberg have time with their families. It is the pilgrimage to the one beach which they traditionally feel they belong to,” she said.
People had stopped coming to the beach because they felt unwelcome, Naidoo said.
Addressing the allegations, Brass Bell owner Tony White said: “The Brass Bell is merely a tenant. Please look to the landlord, Prasa (the Passenger Rail Association of SA), for comment.”
He added: “I must say that everybody I spoke to was amazed that the closing of the gate by the harbour master for about two hours could have made front-page news. It was false, amid the carnage on our roads, the drowning in Kalk Bay harbour and the drowning of two small children under the bridge in Muizenberg.
“How about some of the good news? For instance, there were almost no incidents, unlike in previous years, due to the strong presence of the police on the harbour beach and the preventive action taken by the harbour master. Large amounts of alcohol were confiscated, and the police presence prevented unruly behaviour. This enabled families with children to enjoy a pleasant day on the beach. Perhaps the Cape Times needs to adopt a more balanced approach.”
When asked again to address the allegations of discrimination, White added: “I think everything was explained in your front-page article where it was detailed that the gate was closed at the request of the harbour master and with the full support of the City of Cape Town. The Brass Bell was not involved.”
Prasa did not respond by publication time to a request for comment.
TARNISHED: The Brass Bell in Kalk Bay has been accused of discrimination in limiting access to a public beach.