Archive: Issue No. 119, July 2007

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Bean Bag Bohemia facing closure
by Carol Brown

Durban's Bean Bag Bohemia café, bar and art gallery has become one of the city's iconic venues, bringing artists, poets, musicians, models and wannabe's to their doors. Chef Brendan Newport has turned eating into an art form with creative and exciting food. ArtThrob readers will know that Tamlyn Martin has made the galleries, which surround the diners, into one of the most experimental and active in Durban. Bean Bag Bohemia's artistic programme was acknowledged by BASA in 2005 when it was a winner of the BASA/Business Day Awards in the category for Sponsorship of the Arts by a Small Business.

This is a success story and a feather in the City's cap one would think, but shock waves ran through the city last week when we heard that the Council had ordered them to close with immediate effect due to alleged infringements of by-laws. However the citizens are protesting and business goes on as usual until the matter is resolved. The cited infringements included eating outside on the pavement. If that is still illegal, in what century are we living? Anyone knows that the success of places like Melville in Johannesburg, Long Street in Cape Town etc. is due to the lively outdoor atmosphere. Durban's weather is even more suited to this ambience and if they close down Bean Bag then many venues in the street will have to close down as well, as Florida Road has become popular for its outdoor, vibey atmosphere created by pavement cafés.

We hope that this is a bureaucratic blunder and that the decision will be revoked because, if not, many young artists and performers (and of course diners) will be left with one less venue, and will be a significant blow for Durban. There is no similar place in the city where young artists can show their work without footing expensive bills and having to fill large gallery spaces. The venue also brings art and artists to the attention of many people who would not necessarily visit a more formal gallery space.

Last month I defended Durban's misperception as a cultural backwater and I hope I do not have to eat my words. Watch this space.