Cafe Fish closes down with sadness
CAFE Fish, Durban’s landmark harbour restaurant, has closed its doors as its 20-year lease, which ends on November 1, has not been renewed.
VSM Investments, partowned by Wessel Jacobs, rents the land from Transnet Property and owns the building where the restaurant is situated.
Jacobs said yesterday that he had stopped paying rent of R48 186 a month to Transnet earlier this year when land assessors advised him this was unreasonably high.
Instead he paid only R12 000 a month, as per the assessors’ recommendation.
“This was after we had written many letters, asking Transnet to meet us so we could renegotiate the rent, but they didn’t and so we paid what the assessor recommended,” he said.
“The assessors said I should be paying between R8 000 and R12 000 a month, the normal market rate for land rentals in the area,” he said.
Jacobs said he needed to refurbish the deteriorating building which was no longer safe. “The building is rusting; the air conditioners need to be repaired; we need to spend money and we are unable to invest without a reasonable lease agreement,” he said.
Yesterday, when The Mercury visited the restaurant, workmen were clearing out the property.
Cafe Fish co-owner Debbie Bunyard said there was no hope of returning, even if the lease was renewed.
“There is nothing left here; we’re leaving and I doubt the lease agreement will be renewed,” she said.
A hand-written notice on the locked entrance read: “Restaurant closed till further notice.” Chairs had been placed on top of tables and the floor was cleared.
Bunyard said the restaurant was not moving to another location but was closed. Some of the staff had been placed with other restaurants, while others were jobless.
Wilfred van Stuyvesant Meijen, who built the venue in 1995, said he was saddened.
“I am upset because this place was good for tourism and a good place for people to go out; also a lot of people have lost their jobs,” he said.
Bunyard said they had been receiving a lot of calls from regular patrons.
“Unfortunately there is nothing we can do; this has been a landmark restaurant, many people have come over the years and we have hosted many tourists but we’ve lost all of that,” she said.
Co-owner Marcy Stone said they wanted to thank their patrons for their support.
“It has been traumatic losing Cafe Fish but a business deal is a business deal.”
“Watch this space! We will be back, maybe not in the same place, but somewhere.” Stone said there were international visitors who had booked the restaurant for February next year but had to be cancelled.
Attempts to contact Transnet for comment were unsuccessful.