Arson suspected after Die Strandloper set alight
Cape Town - Iconic Langebaan seafood restaurant Die Strandloper has been damaged in a fire which is suspected to have been started by vandals.
The blaze gutted more than half of the outdoor restaurant on Wednesday night, razing the upper seating areas and service area.
On Friday, owners Caron and Justin Maltby were recovering from the shock while police investigate the cause.
“It wasn’t a mistake or an accident,” Caron said. “There were two separate fire points, so that’s what makes them think it wasn’t just someone trying to keep warm at night.”
Luckily, the restaurant wasn’t completely destroyed.
“We were lucky because the fire services got there very quickly. It could’ve been much worse. The whole thing wasn’t burned to the ground - there’s about 65% damage to the structure.”
Die Strandloper is a world-renowned seafood spot that is a popular destination for local and international tourists alike. Its rustic fishing village decor lends a community feeling to the dining experience, as local delicacies are prepared over open fires while bread bakes in the stone ovens next to the beach. It was established by Justin’s father 30 years ago, then passed on to him and his wife.
“Justin and I have owned it and managed it for almost 20 years now,” Caron said. “That’s why this is quite an emotional thing. It was a shock to see our beloved restaurant in tatters and burnt.”
Before the vandals struck, the global coronavirus pandemic was already taking a toll on the restaurant as many bookings had to be cancelled.
“We closed about a week before lockdown,” Caron said. “Our focus is on our staff; we just want to keep them going. It’s a tough time for everybody.”
The first few weeks of lockdown brought two minor attacks of vandalism on Die Strandloper premises, with small items broken or stolen. Caron believes it is this type of vandalism that escalated and led to the fire. They won’t begin rebuilding until just before the restaurant can begin serving customers again after the lockdown.
“We’re going to leave it as is for now,” she said. “We’re too scared in case there’s more vandalism damage down the line.”
News of the blaze was met with outrage on social media, where Die Strandloper fans from around the world left messages of support for the Maltbys.
“We want to thank everybody for all the overwhelming support and concern - it has certainly given us strength,” Caron wrote in response.
“Today is a new day and we are going to pick ourselves up and, come what may, we plan on rebuilding and re-opening our restaurant just as soon as lockdown allows.”
SAPS spokesperson Colonel Andrè Traut confirmed that police were investigating the fire.
“This office can confirm that Langebaan police are looking into the circumstances surrounding a fire at a local restaurant which occurred late on Wednesday evening to determine if arson was committed,” Traut said.
“Our detectives are still gathering evidence and it is too soon to speculate on the status of the investigation.”