Association to unite Long Street

As the Long Street Residents’ Association (LSRA) hang up their civic hats as representatives of the Long Street community, the Long Street Association (LSA), a newly formed business forum, are stepping up their game in the hopes of creating a safer, more inclusive street for all.

Byron Qually, who has been the chairman of the LSRA since its inception in 2009, felt that the organisation had simply served its purpose as a voice primarily for residents, hotels and religious practitioners who live on Long Street.

He said the organisation started when Long Street was increasingly being promoted as a venue solely for entertainment and retail in the days leading up to the 2010 Soccer World Cup. “The result was that the residential community was being continuously overlooked. After contacting various existing associations and consulting the City of Cape Town officials, the decision was taken to form a residential association appropriate to the uniqueness of Long Street.”

Mr Qually said the organisation felt that because of growth in the city, and more people living in the CBD since 2009, a specific Long Street voice was no longer required. “The LSRA made the mistake of focusing on a specific community, and not the broader Cape Town communities who may not live on the street, but have an equal say in how it should develop.”

The LSRA has been instrumental in bridging the divide between residents in Long Street and the clubs and finding common ground between communities. My Qually said that as the LSRA became more experienced, it got involved in broader public issues.

However, the new Long Street Association (LSA) will have their hands full with ongoing issues that the LSRA has been grappling with, such as building relationships with the City of Cape Town officials, including directorates and councillors; and conflict resolution between residents and businesses in the street.

And it seems like the organisation has their work cut out for them.

The LSA, made up of about 11 businesses, were behind the implementation of eight dedicated law enforcement officers last year, after they managed to raise approximately R70 000.

And now that they have taken care of security, they are looking to expand the organisation to create a platform for businesses, residents and retailers, and brand Long Street as an international entertainment space.

The LSA chairman, Randolf Jorberg, said: “People love coming to Long Street. Sometimes we will see one customer walk into our place three times in one night and that is because they are partying in Long Street. It’s where you meet people and strangers become friends. This is the value of being on Long Street, but it’s not really a destination.

“We want to build onto the concept of Long Street as a destination and as a brand. I believe Long Street needs to be perceived and positioned on the Top Five places to visit in Cape Town. Waterfront is like a luxury destination with a good offering and managed well. And we have to be equivalent to that, but more of a night time small designer vibe, but with less expensive things you get in the Waterfront. An authentically Cape Town version of the Waterfront.”

Mr Jorberg said he started the LSA under the name Long Street Business Owners Association in 2013 as a branding exercise for the street, but it didn’t work out. “It got nowhere because I looked at everything but security, which was the main aspect. I was just going to do some branding and PR.”

Then, two years ago, Mr Jorberg became concerned for the safety of patrons when Joe-Louis Kanyona, a bouncer at his establishment, Beerhouse, was stabbed to death by four suspects who ambushed him in front of the premises.

The incident, as well as many other issues such as pickpocketing, robbery and drug dealing in the street, led to the priority of extra safety in Long Street. “The big problem was security, but now we have that, so we need to do more.”

Craig Adams, a Long Street resident and project manager for the LSA, said that the plan is to have an inclusive approach on how Long Street could be improved. “Right now, we are trying to build partnerships. It’s in the incubation phase, but we are trying to figure out what is the best way for an organisation like this but to bring value to not only the businesses, but to the people who make Long Street what it is.”

He called Long Street a “cultural gold mine.”

And this is what brought Mr Jorberg to Long Street in the first place. “What attracted me to Long Street was that it is the melting pot of South Africa, where all cultures can meet and get an understanding of one another. It’s a safe space.”

Mr Jorberg said a classic example of Long Street not living up to its potential is the lack of signage and branding. “People take pictures in the road, but there’s no signs or branding, or logos and no social media hashtags or presence.

“We are looking at how to make Long Street part of events like Open Streets and First Thursdays, or even bring back the Long Street Festival, which last happened in 2007.”

Mr Jorberg said they are now trying to get more businesses to come on board and contribute to the organisation, and is in the process of speaking to hotels and retailers. “We want to ultimately include the residents, so that we can better solve conflict. The idea is to speak with one central voice, as opposed to many voices. We see the disbandment of the LSRA as an opportunity to join forces and help us all get onto the same page.”

As advice for the newly-formed LSA, Mr Qually encouraged them to work with the councillors, city directorates and Mayco members as they may have other insight that could resolve an issue. He also said that venting concerns is unproductive. “Rather document evidence and publicly share findings. Obtaining this evidence is best done using an independent or trusted third party.”

He said the LSRA would have been nothing without the CapeTowner and other media presences in the CBD. “ Using community newspapers also helps breakdown assumed or constructed barriers, for example I was constantly surprised to read that nightclub owners sometimes had the same concerns as religious practitioners and residents.”