Liquor Board trying to close Radium Beer Hall on technicality

Time of article published May 18, 2012

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THE GAUTENG Liquor Board will have to explain in court today why it has suspended the operating licence of the Radium Beer Hall, one of Joburg’s oldest bar-and-grills.

The Radium Beer Hall, in Orange Grove, is said to have been opened as a tearoom by the Khali family in 1929.

It is described as also having traded as a shebeen selling liquor to customers who were barred from drinking “white man’s booze” at the time, according to its website.

At the time, it was given the scarred old bar counter from the demolished Ferreirastown Hotel; atop which the fiery “Pick Handle Mary” – trade unionist Mary Fitzgerald had inflamed rebels during the 1922 Rand Revolt.

The pub’s walls are plastered with photos of pre-war soccer teams and jazzmen and women who have played there, plus vintage posters and old clippings.

The 83-year-old business now faces the grim possibility of closure after the board’s compliance committee placed it under suspension on Wednesday.

The board claims the pub’s trading licence is fraudulent, according to its owner, Manny Cabeleira.

At least seven other pubs along Louis Botha Avenue face the same fate, according to the provincial liquor board.

An angry Cabeleira has launched an urgent court application to interdict the Gauteng Liquor Board from confiscating his stock and shutting down his business.

Gauteng Economic Development MEC Qedani Mahlangu and Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa are among the respondents in the case.

“I find it very strange that a place that has been trading for an uninterrupted period spanning over 80 years suddenly finds itself in this predicament, purportedly because the title deed contains prohibition on the sale of liquor on the premises,” Cabeleira said.

According to the court papers, which The Star has seen, the liquor board contends that the Radium obtained its trading licence through the Mayfair West Bottle Store – which is not included in the Radium’s lease agreement.

As a result, the board insists that the title deeds must have restrictions on liquor trading on the Radium’s premises. This has left Cabeleira seething.

“There is no basis whatsoever… for the aforesaid contentions. The logic and reasoning is so bizarre, irrational and illogical.

“I reiterate that there are no conditions in the title deeds (of the Radium) which in any way prohibit the sale of liquor from the premises,” said Cabeleira, through his lawyers.

By issuing the compliance order, he added, the board had acted illegally as the suspension was both unlawful and invalid.

“I want my licence reinstated in court. I want everybody (to know), my customers included, that I don’t trade illegally,” he said.

So perplexed by the decision is Cabeleira that he now believes the compliance and enforcement officer, Malebo Malebo, had acted without the liquor board’s authority when he issued the suspension.

“I stand to suffer extremely serious and irreparable harm if an interim interdict is not granted.

“We call upon the board to provide proof that the relevant official was authorised by the liquor board,” said Cabeleira.

Malebo declined to comment and referred enquiries to the Gauteng Liquor Board.

The board’s spokesman, Mandla Sidu, declined to comment, saying “the matter was sub judice”.

The case was expected to be heard in the Johannesburg High Court today.

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