Durban - In spite of the sunshine outside, a grey cloud hangs over the veranda of the legendary Gooderson Beach Hotel, as regulars lament the January closure of one of their favourite haunts.
Built in the first decade of the last century, it became an iconic beachfront hotel. Now there are plans for it to become residential.
Retired teacher Enid Senekal sipped coffee below where a television once beamed the rugby matches that she often watched. Such an All Blacks fan, she even bunked work once to greet them at the airport. She recalled how when big matches happened at King’s Park, the Beach Hotel would be “pumping”.
“I used to always love stirring because it would be packed with Springbok supporters. In 2017, on the morning of the (Bok-All Black) match, a waiter warned me I could be looking for trouble. The Boks lost 57-0 and the supporters were very droopy. That was the Beach Hotel.”
Senekal said her heart ached for the loyal staff, who had given years of service and would have to find new jobs as older people.
Also lamenting the lack of alternatives was retired Durban High School Afrikaans teacher and sports coach, Nico Lamprecht, enjoying a full English breakfast for R39.
He said he had tried other places, only to find that they upped the price simply because of a special coffee being on offer.
“I used to go to the Wimpy at the aquarium. Then that all moved to uShaka,” he said.
Back at the Beach Hotel, Lamprecht recalls a beachfront run from the Blue Waters Hotel to the Marines Club.
Looking out to sea from his breakfast seat, he spoke of how his association with the area extended to the Durban Life Saving Club, where he had been a lifeguard. And further into the ocean: his Master’s thesis was about Boer women and children, held in ships offshore, based on their own writings.
Waiter Selvin Manickum, who is devastated by the closure after having worked there for 22 years, said his favourite memory was serving tea to actor Danny Glover.
“It was the people I served who made me the waiter I am,” he said.
Kitchen worker Doctor Makhathini recalls the 2010 World Cup fondly, “especially the Dutch fans”.
Waiter Wilson Mayiza said the changes at the hotel would mean an end to 37 years of service.
They face uncertain futures.
Chef Raj Bhola, stirring his prized mutton curry, said he would go into private catering, specialising in cooking his curries on open fires.
Hotel owner Alan Gooderson said it was a sale of a lease that was happening because of high rentals.
“We decided to sell because Durban has been suffering a bit. A lot (of the trade) has moved to uMhlanga.”
He added that Gooderson Leisure would continue to have the nearby Tropicana Hotel, to which some staff would be transferred. “Others will be retrenched, unfortunately.”
He could not confirm speculation that the building might become a students’ residence.