Permit confusion stirs pub dispute

-warmerga
TROUBLE IN THE GARDEN: Warmer Gardens owner Bonni Tiedemann says she feels she is being victimised after regular raids by the police. Picture: JUDY DE VEGA

Rochelle de Kock

BONNI Tiedemann, the owner of Port Elizabeth garden pub establishment Warmer Gardens, is at her wits’ end and does not know where to turn after several complaints about noise pollution from a neighbour and what she said were continuous attempts by the police to shut down her business.

Although Tiedemann was granted a liquor licence by the Eastern Cape Liquor Board with permission to play music at the 8th Avenue venue, as long as it was not audible beyond the boundary fence, the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality has only permitted a restaurant, with no alcohol to be sold.

The discrepancy between the Eastern Cape Liquor Board and municipality rulings is a major problem which has resulted in the metro dragging several liquor outlets to court for non-compliance with municipal bylaws.

Eastern Cape Liquor Board manager Mgwebi Msiya said that, although he would investigate this particular case, it was not a requirement to consult the municipality before considering a liquor licence application.

“In general it is not a requirement in terms of the Eastern Cape Liquor Act to request such information from the municipality prior to the consideration of the application.

“In terms of Section 22 2(B)(i) of the act, a ward committee must, on receipt of the notice, consult the community of the area where the premises are situated, and simultaneously submit a report to the board and the relevant municipal council.”

Municipal spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki, on the other hand, said the Liquor Board “always grants licences in consideration of the zoning conditions that the municipality has given”.

The municipality is still in the process of establishing ward committees.

Meanwhile, Tiedemann said she felt that she was being victimised and harassed by Rod Evans, chairman of the board of trustees of Deyton Court, which is the block of flats adjacent to her business.

She said Evans had contacted the police almost every time she opened her doors, often leading to embarrassing stand-offs with the police in front of her customers.

“He’s a serial complainant…It started four years ago, the day I opened. It’s pure victimisation… In the last six months it’s become unbearable,” Tiedemann said.

“I don’t know what else to do. Where are my rights as a human being, as a citizen earning an income, paying my staff running a very normal holistic business?

“We don’t do drugs, we don’t do drunk and after hours. Who has it in for me?”

Evans said he had no choice but to contact the police because the music from the pub caused a disturbance. He said he was acting on behalf of the flat residents.

“She’s opened a beer garden with live music 30m from a block of flats… One Friday [January 17] it went on until 2am.

“I have received complaints from many people,” Evans said. “She has drum fires there and it’s right next to a filling station. There’s no way she can operate an establishment like that [here].”

Things came to a head in August last year when the police confiscated R45000 worth of sound equipment. Tiedemann then dragged the police to court and won her case, with the police being ordered to return her equipment.

Last Sunday afternoon, the police interrupted a live band performance at Warmer Gardens and started to unplug the equipment. In video footage of the Sunday raid, which The Herald has seen, a police officer in civilian clothes admits to not having any paperwork authorising his wanting to remove the equipment.

Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg said that police “respond to all complaints in an unbiased and fair fashion”.

She added: “Police responded to a complaint of noise pollution and warned the owner of the tavern to desist.

“However, the owner failed to pay any heed and the police were forced to return three hours later to confiscate the instruments by which the crime was perpetrated, namely the sound system.”

Mniki said: “The [business] has always been zoned for special purposes as approved. The said activity is operating on a portion earmarked for a tea garden and display area.

“The owner can operate [her] business in consideration of those around [her], adhering to the conditions prescribed.”