Durban - Durban’s empty beachfront restaurants, which continue to be a drain on the city’s coffers, at a cost of R64 000 a month to maintain, may not be “fully operational” for a third Christmas in a row.
It is still unclear when the 10 new tenants are expected to move into the buildings that have stood empty for three years.
The eThekwini Municipality has rejected previous proposals from established restaurant groups and a hotel group to get the sites up and running.
But, last week, the city promised the new restaurants would bring an exciting mix of food, retail and sporting facilities that would add diversity to the beachfront.
Charles Preece, the operations manager of the Federated Hospitality Association of SA (East Coast), told The Mercury that it would take “a couple of months” to get the facilities ready for business.
“Opening a restaurant doesn’t happen overnight because you need to train your staff properly. Rushing to open will lead to all sorts of problems. It would be a difficult target to achieve, to get a place like that operating in a month,” he warned.
Preece said having empty restaurant spaces was detrimental to the beachfront atmosphere and the sooner the restaurants were opened the better.
A municipal spokesman, Thabo Mofokeng, said the municipality acknowledged the delay in the leasing of the beachfront restaurants.
“The municipality had to make sure that the proper supply chain management processes were followed to prevent further delays in awarding the contracts for the premises,” he said.
Mofokeng said the city’s bid adjudication committee had made a decision and the municipality would issue a statement in the next few days.
The kiosks would be open before the festive season and the bigger restaurants would start operating – but not at full capacity, he said.
“Residents and beachgoers can look forward to the new mix that will include upmarket as well as casual eating outlets, some with a distinct local flavour,” he said.
DA councillor Rick Crouch said he doubted the buildings would be open in time for the peak December holiday season.
He said the restaurants had deteriorated with lack of use and needed to be refurbished.
“It just won’t happen, those restaurants will not be open in December and that will be disastrous for our tourism.
“Restaurateurs I have spoken to have told me it takes a lot of time and money to get a restaurant up and running.”
The beachfront restaurants, built in the R300 million beachfront upgrade to coincide with the World Cup, have never been permanently occupied.
The monthly rent ranges from R26 700 for floor space of 297m2 to R67 188 for properties with floor space of 537m2.
Smaller kiosks pay rent of between R1 000 and R6 200 a month. - The Mercury