With reviews that read, “great environment, scrumptious food, Exceptional customer service, Friendly and attentive owners…. Feels just right at home,” – Happy Wilbard, “nice place to chill and good food. Great breakfast,” – Simon Kulo-style Lysius, and “I love open air set up and simplicity, something that The Garden Inn embraces,” – Werah Katamba, it is clear to see that The Garden Inn is a crowd pleaser, and since its existence has been well received by the public.
Why then are they being told to shut down?
Quoted as saying “The Garden Inn 13 is not just a place to grab a drink, it is a major boardroom for future leaders, a networking hub, a home to freethinkers. It is the O.R Tambo International Airport to Namibian entrepreneurs,” Bomba W P Shiguedha aka Uncle Bomba, is clearly proud of what he has managed to achieve with the establishment and the role it plays in Windhoek’s social as well as mixed-business scenes.
After spending considerable time seeking for a suitable location for a car wash and lounge, Uncle Bomba came across the property at 13 Bismarck Street, and realised that his original plans would have to be altered slightly. The space was unsuitable for a car wash but was suited perfectly for a casual, outdoorsy feel, type restaurant and as an office base.
Once an agreement was reached with the owner of the property, complete with a 3D mock up of what they had in mind, Uncle Bomba and a business associate went about the business of getting the property ready for trade.
On applying for a fitness certificate after signing a lease agreement in March 2018, Uncle Bomba and his business partners received a barrage of irregularities from the City of Windhoek, telling them of the additions that had to be made to the property, in order for it to be fit to serve as a restaurant.
Changes included fitting a second restroom, adding a geyser, among others. It meant that although they were paying rent to the landlord, the restaurant could not operate until a fitness certificate was obtained from the City. This finally happened in July 2018.
The Garden Inn 13 was awarded with their fitness certificate to trade as a restaurant in July 2018.
A restaurant specifically serves the purpose of serving food, has extensive seating and plays audible music for ambience.
Although there have been incidences of loud music being played, these have been rectified and addressed. The business has been operational for 8 months and as is the case with all businesses, some teething problems do occur.
In the time that the restaurant has been operating, there have never been any complaints about any irregularities, which is why they were taken aback when on or about Valentine’s day this year, they were served with a letter from Dr Weder, Kauta and Hoveka law firm, at the instruction of ‘various concerned residents’ on Bismarck Street.
The letter states that they are running a bar at the property, which is not the case.
The complainants demanded that the business stop trading immediately.
Soon after the operators of The Garden Inn 13 responded, the lawyer’s letter was followed up by a City of Windhoek letter dated 4 April, which states that “… activities contravene the Windhoek Town Planning Scheme. The Town Planning Scheme has been constituted and promulgated in order to promote harmonious and orderly development of the urban area.”
The letter further states “should you wish to continue with commercial activities you are advised to apply for consent to operate a restaurant/bar from Erf 741 Windhoek.”
This is even though they are in possession of a valid fitness certificate specifically for trading as a restaurant, which expires at the end of July. “We have invested in this. I have been losing sleep over this. We have close to 20 employees here, so when I am going to close down, it means that I am closing doors to 20 people who come work here daily,” says Uncle Bomba.
“I am losing income. Obviously I am not employed, this is my bread and butter. So you become unstable, you don’t know where the future is headed to, you know?”
In the midst of the uncertainty and without having the confidence that their current fitness certificate will be renewed by the City, the establishment remains trading and they are optimistic about a positive outcome.
The Lounge has it on good authority that similar incidences of establishments being forced or threatened with closure have happened in Windhoek.
One of the owners of such establishments was out of the country at the time of going to print and was unable to provide comment.
This is a story we are keeping an eye on.