Eviction order for tourism hotspot

Yacht club restaurant given until month-end to pack up and leave

After a protracted legal battle, the Algoa Bay Yacht Club’s restaurant and bar has been served with an eviction notice – but the battle for the prime tourism hotspot is far from over, according to the club.

Yacht club commodore Alan Straton, who is also the club’s chairman, said yesterday the yacht club was key to the success of Nelson Mandela Bay’s bid to position itself as the water sport capital of the country.

The Chart Room Restaurant in the yacht club has until the end of the month to pack up after the Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) served the eviction notice on Friday.

Straton said he would be taking the decision to the national Ports Regulator in Durban with the hope of having it overturned.

The three-year legal wrangle between the club and the national ports authority – over rental – culminated in a draft court order being granted by the Port Elizabeth High Court in August, effectively giving the club’s restaurant six months to vacate.

Transnet claimed the yacht club owed almost R2-million in overdue rental.

It also wanted the club to fork out more than R49 000 a month for rent – which it has been paying since.

The rent had previously leapt from about R22 000 to R37 000 in 2009.

Court papers revealed that Transnet issued the yacht club with a summons in 2014, claiming that the almost 60-year-old Port Elizabeth harbour feature owed about R1.9-million in overdue rental as the amount it had been paying was not market-related.

Straton said: “The statement released by the TNPA is puzzling and hurtful as we continue to ask it to return to the negotiating table to find a solution that will be beneficial to all stakeholders in the Port of Port Elizabeth while continuing to provide services to international and national yachts seeking shelter in the port and seeking to shine the spotlight on our excellent waters to host international and local sailing competitions.

“Last week, our offer to move the hosting of the East Cape Provincial Sailing Championships from late September to late August to support the Port of Port Elizabeth People’s Port Festival was eagerly welcomed by the port – and now we learn through the media of our ‘impending eviction’ and not via the correct agreed channels.

“I fail to understand how the city intends on positioning itself as the water sport capital of the country when its assets are being removed.

“When one looks at the Volvo Ocean Race, it generates R500-million for the city.

“And that is outside spend. The yacht club is key to attracting such events for this city.”

In a statement from the national ports authority on Saturday, Port Elizabeth port manager Rajesh Dana said the lease which the national ports authority held with the Algoa Bay Sailing Marina would not be affected and yacht owners would continue to have uninterrupted access to their yachts.

Straton said: “Our relationship with the TNPA has progressed from a combative one to a much more understanding relationship.

“Hence I am taken aback by the TNPA decision to tackle this again.

“We will be taking this to the Ports Regulator, who is essentially the ombudsman of the ports, to preside over the unilateral increases in the rental following the court order [in August], which contravenes the TNPA’s own policies on rentals.

“It will also have to make a decision on the agreement that an external valuator would be assigned to value the property to determine a fair rental amount, but instead Transnet appointed an internal valuator.”

Dana’s statement said the national ports authority had to comply with stringent governance processes when it came to managing leases.

“As landlord, the TNPA operates within a legislative and regulatory environment created by the National Ports Act No 12 of 2005,” he said.

“This requires us to follow a public process for service providers looking to provide port services and facilities.

“Our lease management policy further requires that when a lease expires, the TNPA must ensure that the broader public has an opportunity to participate in a process that is fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost-effective.”

The court order, agreed upon by both parties out of court in August, effectively allowed the club to continue operating until February 28, after which it would be allowed to continue operations on a month-to-month basis, should Transnet fail to secure a replacement tenant.

However, Dana said the national ports authority had already embarked on an open tender process for a new tenant in September and the process was at an advanced stage.

“An announcement in this regard will be made shortly,” he said.

According to the Algoa Bay Yacht Club website, the club’s first meeting was held on September 14 1959.

It states that the second half of the 1980s saw steady growth in club membership and boat owners.

This resulted in the clubhouse being doubled in size to provide a new ward room, offices, improved ablutions and the Chart Room Restaurant, which was initially for members only.

In 2006, the club suffered a devastating fire. It was rebuilt and a decision taken to open the restaurant and the club to the public.

Asked how the closure of the restaurant affected the yacht club, Straton said: “The yacht club doesn’t own the restaurant.

“The club is an NPO [nonprofit organisation] of volunteers and does not sublet to the restaurant owners, but the Chart Room, through its sales, pays utilities to the yacht club which assists in paying the rental.”

Since 2006, the restaurant has established a loyal following, with many dismayed at the news of the eviction.

Summerstrand resident Alister Wessels said: “It provides food and an atmosphere unlike any other restaurant in city. It is devastating to think it is going to be taken away.

“Nowhere else in the city do you have this type of pristine view of the harbour and the yachts.”

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