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Melville's 7th Street dying a slow death

By unknown | Aug 11, 2008 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Edward Tsumele

Edward Tsumele

On Main Road in Melville the popular eating and drinking joint, the Wee Pub, is the new hangout for upwardly mobile blacks and liberal whites.

Artists, journalists, lawyers, young businessmen and writers have made the cosy pub their second home.

The food is soulful, there are several sport channels available on DStv, the place is small and intimate, the prices of most alcoholic drinks are not more than R10.

On top of that management has now introduced a happy hour on Mondays, selling most drinks at R7,50, says the bar manager Robert "Robinno" Khumalo.

"We have competition," Khumalo says. "Two new places have opened so we are improving our service."

The Wee Pub is the only place in the suburb where on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays one can buy traditional dishes such as Manqina and skop.

But this is not the only popular place on the road. Just last week two new eating, music and partying places opened.

Another Kospotoni, which is owned by the Newtown-based eatery Sophiatown, will open in September on Main Road.

When the new live music venue Rocka Bar opened last week, there was a long winding queue that stretched several kilometres.

The Tandoor Chicken Grill, specialising in curry, has also opened.

Last year cultural activist and writer S'fiso Ntuli teamed up with like-minded people and opened a restaurant.

Out of all places The House of Nsako is in nearby Brixton. The idea was to lure those with disposable income and discerning taste away from 7th Street to this alternative upmarket venue.

It has worked.

Go there on any given weekend and indulge in some culture talk and meet interesting people.

Though the famous 7th Street has been a place of fun and choice for culturally tolerant South Africans from all backgrounds for a long time, diners need a change - and safety

For several years the talk doing the rounds in Melville's coffee society is that car theft is rife along 7th Street. This might be bar talk, though.

The street, which was made famous by the TV soapie 7 de Laan, is nevertheless fast becoming a shell of its former self.

To many people who have been frequenting the place it did not come as a surprise that kwaito artist-turned classical music composer and singer Zwai Bala was assaulted by the owners of a restaurant for questioning the 10 percent surcharge on his bill.

This at the same venue which, about five years ago, used to be called The Church by Melville's coffee society. They used to patriotically congregate there on certain days to chill and talk about the arts, politics, media and even men and women.

Loud, often popular music such as hip-hop, R&B, Afro pop and rock music have an uneasy co-existence with each other and attracts all kinds of people to the area.

Granted, the place is still a home to a number of decent eateries for a comfortable evening with family or friends, attracting intellectuals, artists, unionists, students, tourists and even businesspeople

It still has specialist restaurants and trendy book shops selling out-of-print books.

But the steady descent into unpredictable but certain decay and scary depths of squalor, has been there for anyone to see for some time.

The place is dying a slow death.

The truth is the decent eateries that still call this place their home have an unsteady co-existence with what has increasingly become a culture of clubbing on 7th Street. Fights are common and people lose handbags and cellphones all the time.

Those who once witnessed another vibrant street, Rocky Street in Yeoville turning into squalor, say the same is happening to 7th Street.

Is it the end of a trendy suburb or is it just undergoing the stress of a society in transition and will finally recover?


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