A Dry Suburb

Pinelands and Fish Hoek had a national reputation of being the only major suburbs in the country, seen as “dry”, with no bottle stores. Fish Hoek had a legal restriction which was overcome in recent years. However, in Pinelands, where there is no legal restriction, the suburb remains “dry”. Many suburbs make contact with Pinelands to follow the example but none have been successful. Simply put, Pinelands is “dry” due to the stand taken by residents.   

In 1952 the issue of a liquor licence in Pinelands was raised for the first time. It was for a bottle store at Howard Centre. Exactly who applied is uncertain, but in 1953 the Garden Cities Monthly reported that the Board of Directors of Garden Cities decided not to proceed with the application.

Pinelands continued to oppose any type of liquor licence and in 1972 opposed an application by the Spur restaurant known then as “the Lone Spur”. An informal poll was conducted among residents who rejected the application. Later when the Spur changed to Cincinnati Spur, they successfully obtained their licence.

In 2004 Pick n Pay considered opening a boutique wine shop at Howard Centre but scrapped the idea. In 2013 it was rumoured that Pick n Pay would again apply for a licence but after this was reported in the Ward Councillor’s newsletter, no application was made.

A meeting was held in 1979 between the Municipality and a trader who informally agreed to not apply for a liquor licence.

In 1987, the municipality opposed a licence application by the renowned Pinelands restaurant Magica Roma. This led to a fierce debate in Council which voted not to support the application.

In 1994 Pick n Pay again considered applying for a grocers licence but this was strongly opposed by the Howard Centre Tenants Association in a letter to the Council and they did not apply.  

1995 became a key year for liquor licence applications. It all started with Little Italy restaurant at Howard Centre applying for a licence. In a move away from their previous stance 12 month earlier against liquor licences in Howard Centre, the majority of Howard Centre Tenants Association members supported Little Italy’s application.

As a result of this change, Alderman Watkyns, the local Councillor, conducted a survey on alcohol being sold in Pinelands. Ninety-six percent of residents opposed a bottle store, while 88% opposed liquor sales in supermarkets. On the basis of the poll, the Centre Management withdrew their support for a Pick n Pay wine outlet. However, the poll showed a marked shift in public opinion regarding restaurants, with 64% of the respondents now in favour of liquor being sold at restaurants with a meal.

In the following month, despite the poll being widely reported, Kwikspar at Central Square applied for a liquor licence. The Pinelands Ratepayers Association successfully applied to the Municipality to picket outside the shop and to set up a table to collect signatures for a petition against the application. Residents were called to boycott Kwikspar. The owner, who had grown up in Pinelands, withdrew the application.

Due to the outcome of the poll showing a more favourable approach to liquor in restaurants, Cincinnati Spur and Magica Aroma both made successful applications.  While there was no opposition to Magica Roma, those still opposing the Spur application were concerned that it was the favourite hangout for teenagers.

In 1996 a new proposal to open an upmarket wine outlet with beer and selected spirits was proposed for Howard Centre and supported by the owners of Howard Centre. Due to public pressure the proposer looked for premises elsewhere.

Seven Eleven made a second attempt to apply for a liquor licence in 1997. The application was rejected by the Liquor Board when the application was heard in 1998 due to representations by the Pinelands Residents and Ratepayers Association.

The next year, Pick n Pay again applied for a grocers licence. Angela Chester, the chair of the Pinelands Ratepayers Residents Association at the time said they had a long-standing mandate from residents to oppose liquor outlet in Pinelands. It was also opposed by the Community Police Forum and the Neighbourhood Watch in an open letter to Gareth Ackerman of Pick n Pay. The application went ahead and was heard in February 1998. At the Liquor Board hearing, Pick n Pay’s lawyers failed to arrive, and another date was set aside for a whole day hearing. In the interim Pick n Pay started their own survey on what shoppers wanted. The application was withdrawn by Pick n Pay but not in time to prevent the Liquor Board turning down their application.   

In 2014 Wimpy successfully applied for liquor licence. While residents over the years had come to accept liquor being served with a meal, many thought Wimpy was different. They saw Wimpy as a combination of a family restaurant and a takeaway and on both counts considered it to be different to other eateries. Many were concerned that the majority of Wimpy tables were situated in the open food courtyard. Nevertheless, the licence was granted.

When Woolworths moved into Pinelands, they advised the Pinelands Ratepayers and Residents Association that they fully intended selling wine at their Howard Centre branch. However numerous objections including a threat of boycotting Howard Centre led to a change of mind, and an agreement was reached not to sell alcohol at the store.

At the time of writing the Pick n Pay Express store at the Pinelands BP Service Station has applied for a licence, once again raising the debate. There have been many objections not only from residents but also from those opposed to selling liquor at petrol stations. We await the outcome.

The first application for a bar was made in 2016. Hazel Marshall of Silvertown applied for an on-consumption licence at Clyde Pinelands Soccer Club with daily trading hours from 11 am to 2am the next day and employing 4 persons. Initially it was thought to be a facility for Club members and visiting teams which would add to the Club’s income, in line with many other sporting clubs in Pinelands. While the Club supported the application, it became apparent that it was private venture, hiring an area of the clubhouse which was leased from the City of Cape Town. The licence was to establish a bar catering for the public. This led to widespread opposition in the community. The application was abandoned as it was found to be in conflict with the lease provisions of the City and the zoning scheme.