Retreat liquor licence litigation continues

The objectors stand in front of 145 11th Avenue Retreat, for which a liquor licence application was made.

Retreat residents and organisations are remaining steadfast in their objection to a liquor licence application for a premises in 11th Avenue Retreat.

Their actions may be a groundbreaking turning point for communities who are struggling against the granting of liquor licences in their area.

The application for an off-consumption licence for the premises at 145 11th Avenue Retreat was initially made in December 2019 and was granted by the Western Cape Liquor Authority (WCLA) Liquor Licensing Tribunal (LLT) in February but because of persistence community stakeholders were granted another opportunity to present their objections to the tribunal.

Faith-based organisations such as the New Apostolic House, Leaders in Covenant Fraternal that represents various churches, the Second Chance rehabilitation centre, the Retreat Community Health Centre, St Mary’s Primary School, Douglas Murray Home for the Aged and the Retreat Haven Night Shelter had objected to the liquor application through a petition.

In total seven institutions with elected leaders who represented the community were part of the objection group.

The Retreat Steenberg Civic Association (RSCA) questioned the conditional approval granted by the Appeal Tribunal which was communicated in a letter dated February 9 and followed it up with a community meeting to address the issue.

According to RSCA chairperson Mark Solomons the onus was on the applicant Kirby Loren Summers, to notify the objectors about the appeals case but this had, however, not been done, resulting in the licence being conditionally granted.

“The first judge did not grant licence, the applicant took an appeal and the onus was on the applicant to notify the objectors of the appeal but this did not happen,” said Mr Solomons.

“It could so easily have fallen through the cracks if we didn’t follow up – meaning the liquor licence would have been granted despite our first round of objections.”

When the RSCA and other stakeholders were informed, they jumped into action and tried to get legal representation but Mr Solomons said it would have cost between R20 000 and R30 000 – money which the association did not have. So, they represented themselves at the virtual hearing which took place on Thursday April 15 with a judge, the applicant, the applicant’s legal council, a representative from the WCLA and the objectors representative.

Tony Lawrence, the SRCA spokesperson represented the group who objected to the liquor licence.

Tony Lawrence, RSCA, spokesperson and group representative who spoke on behalf of all the objectors, said he felt confident about the possible outcome of the hearing.

“We’re hoping it will become a learning exercise for communities to speak up and object to issues that they do not want in their areas,” he said.

“’After the outcome we will expand and hopefully engage with other communities how to go about these things according to protocol. A lot of people complain on social media but rarely follow the right processes. We want to change that and help communities fight back,” said Mr Lawrence.

Mr Solomons agreed that it was a groundbreaking case and said he was confident they would succeed and that the judge would withdraw the application.

Southern Mail also joined the virtual hearing at which the WCLA’s Anita Arendse, legal representative for the applicant Vincent Berg and Mr Lawrence were given the opportunity to present their final arguments.

Mr Berg argued that the objectors didn’t represent the majority of Retreat residents and that there was no proof that another liquor outlet would contribute to crime and social ills in the area. He argued that it was unfair that other liquor outlets had been granted licences but his client hadn’t.

Mr Lawrence, however, pointed out that all those who had participated in the objection process were elected leaders in their respective institutions and spoke for a big portion of Retreat residents.

“There is absolutely no need for another liquor outlet, especially not in 11th Avenue because it is already a crime hot spot,” he said. “Adding the liquor outlet will add to the already problematic area.”

Ms Arendse supported the objectors and their reasons.

Mr Solomons said the community would much rather prefer a positive development for the community instead of an added problem. “We will see this through and reach out to other communities to show them which processes to follow when they don’t want more liquor outlets in their community. These applicants find loopholes and we have to be aware so that we can fight to object through the correct processes.”

Mr Lawrence ended by saying they didn’t have anything against the applicant but that the location in question was not appropriate.

“When do communities reach a saturation point where there are too many liquor outlets? We will follow up and do some research to see if there can be a line in the sand so that more liquor licences aren’t granted,” he said.

The hearing heard that the outcome of the matter would be announced once the judge had gone through all the necessary information.