Trainee Chanté Desmore works together with chef and trainer Cheyenne Janssen at Brownies & Downies in Long Street, Cape Town. Picture: Supplied

Cape Town - Well-known Long Street lunch spot Brownies & Downies is in jeopardy thanks to its owner being barred from South Africa, allegedly due to a Home Affairs paperwork bungle.

Brownies & Downies is a coffee shop renowned for its chocolate brownies, where people with special needs, such as those with Down’s Syndrome, are trained with culinary and waitering skills.

Its future - along with the jobs of its staff and trainers - hangs in the balance as Dutch co-owner Wendy Schultz has been denied re-entry to South Africa for five years.

Stuck in the Netherlands, Schultz said she was desperately trying to regain access to the country where her family and business are based.

“Apart from wishing to be reunited with my husband, Brownies & Downies needs me back in South Africa to continue the work that we have started,” Schultz said. “I have battled in an appeals process spanning close on two years to sort out my paperwork with the Department of Home Affairs, but seem to hit one snag after the other.”

Schultz and her husband Wade, who co-owns the business, have been inundated with requests from special needs schools and families across the country to start up similar initiatives around SA, thanks to the success of the Cape Town coffee shop.

“Essentially, Brownies & Downies runs a training programme where young people with special needs are taught culinary skills so that they are empowered, can have a sense of purpose and can contribute meaningfully to society,” Schultz said.

The training programme pairs neurotypical trainers with special needs staff members, who then learn cooking skills in the kitchen as well as waitron and hosting skills such as interacting with guests, taking orders, and delivering food to the tables. So far, it has resulted in 12 people with intellectual disabilities being placed into work environments, with a further 7 awaiting Schultz’s return.

Schultz said that due to a “slip-up” with her paperwork, she has been barred from South Africa for a period of 5 years.

Department of Home Affairs spokesman Thabo Mokgola did not respond to requests for comment at the time of publication

Weekend Argus