Covid-19 and its lockdowns are destroying restaurants, cafés, pubs and shops all over South Africa. And iconic, historic York Road at Surfers Corner, Muizenberg, could go next.
It’s time to save York Road by closing it to traffic. Turn it into a people place.
No cars. No trucks. No motor bikes. No parking on the red bricks. Instead, just a tree in a planter blocking off York Street at Main Road.
And plants, tables, chairs and sunshades to welcome restaurant, pub, café and shop customers.
And a booth for carvings and African cloth to lure tourists.
One major advantage of a people-only York Road is that its restaurants and pubs will serve customers in the open air where they are much less likely to be exposed to the pandemic.
If immediate closure of the street turns out to be a problem — political or otherwise — weekend closing as soon as possible will be a good start.
All restaurants, cafés, pubs and shops on York Road offered initial support for some form of this Project.
- The Striped Horse.
- The Black Cat Café.
- Empire Café (re-opens in October).
- Paper Moon Bookshop,
- For The Love of The Ocean.
- Carla’s Mozambique Restaurant.
- Samara’s Superette.
The York Road Project has enthusiastic support from Muizenberg City Councillor Aimee Kuhl: “Yes, love the idea … would love to help you guys make it happen.”
The Muizenberg Historical Conservation Society: “It would make a delightful addition to the village and a great venue for cultural events.” The False Bay Tourism and Business Association and Get South Gallery also offer support.
Kevin Rack, local community leader and activist says: “Fantastic initiative as I support the ideas of open streets creating a community atmosphere and enhancing business … Muizenberg is cursed with what I call drawing room politics played by those few privileged.”
In fact,, the most powerful landlord in the area has dismissed the Project and refuses to meet or even discuss it.
The Proposal is collecting positive responses on the Muizenberg website.
False Bay College Hospitality and Tourism department is interested in collaborating.
The York Road Project, will cost the city of Cape Town — and restaurant, pub, café and shop owners in and around York Road — nothing.
The York Road Project is public service.
Everyone involved in it is a volunteer.
Nobody gets paid.
Closing off York road means losing a dozen parking spots. But there’s ample parking around the corner next to the rail line, across the rail line, and across Main Road in the park.
The entrance to York Road from School Road and the parking lot is much wider, better suited to the needs of police, fire engines, garbage trucks etc.
There’s dramatic local precedent for this Project. Cape Town’s hugely successful St. Georges Mall, is full of life, colour, energy, pubs, restaurants, shops and — most important — people.
People-only York Road — part of one of the most racially-mixed beaches flanking Cape Town — will be an ideal base for farmers’ markets and the annual spring Muizenberg Festival.
The mostly unused Muizenberg Pavilion and Promenade can be revived for performances and gatherings.
African cloths, carvings, local produce and a variety of other people-based offerings popular with locals and tourists will be sold.
Covid-19 is changing everything in our lives. If we want to save York Road and its Surfers Corner neighbourhood, now is the time to act.
Before it’s too late!
Parts of York Road are 120 years old.
The York Road Project will help save its historic buildings for future generations.
The York Road Project will also help save the many restaurants, pubs and cafés stretching along the magic half-mile from The West Bank on Main Road, down York Road, along Beach Road through the historic Village, all the way to the Blue Bird Market on Albertyn Road and the venerable Masque Theatre.
That’s more than 30 restaurants, pubs and cafés.
Add 30 shops of various kinds.
Then assume some 10 people rely, directly or indirectly, on each of these businesses for employment.
Some 600 precious jobs are at stake. The York Road Project will help save these jobs and offer many more job opportunities in the future.
And it’s free.
Before Covid-19, tourism was responsible for 300,000 jobs in the Western Cape. In 2018, the province attracted 1.7 million international tourists who spent R16.3 billion [US$985 million].
People-only York Road at Surfers Corner can and should attract many more of those tourists and much more of that money.
And employ many more local people.
It can be both a local and tourist hub. A centre. An anchor. A much bigger player in South Africa’s vital tourist trade.
Here’s an example of the very real enthusiasm even unclosed York Road generated during lockdown:
Sunday, August 16, 2020.
The Harvest Cafe on York Road offers a deal on burgers.
People line up on both sides of the street, buy more than 250 burgers in an hour.
Imagine what York Road will look like without the cars!
If We Block it,
They Will Come …
Survival and Revival of Muizenberg After Covid-19: http://www.horstkleinschmidt.co.za
Tim Knight is an Emmy Award-winning British-Canadian-South African journalist, broadcast journalism trainer and filmmaker who lives at Surfers Corner. He’s the author of Storytelling and the Anima Factor, now in its second edition.