Mossel Bay Tourism has reacted with alarm to the news of the possible closing of The Goods Shed – the town’s highly successful indoor flea market.
The Goods Shed occupies a historic, 15 x 90 metre sandstone building which was hailed as the largest clear-span structure in the Southern Cape when it opened as a cargo store in 1900. It is now the property of the Transnet National Port Authority (TNPA), and is let to the Municipality of Mossel Bay, which sub-lets the space to more than 70 stall holders. The lease agreement, which was designed to allow Mossel Bay to use the building as a local economic development and tourism project, ends on December 31 this year, and has been put out on tender.
According to the Municipality’s Harry Hill, the existing lease was seen as a corporate social responsibility project for the TNPA, which charged a favourable rate so that the Municipality could provide small local businesses with space at prices they could afford. He said, however, that the tender makes it almost impossible for the Municipality to bid successfully since the Municipality would not be able to comply with BEE requirements that usually apply only to corporates, and since the tender calls for a market-related price that would need to be passed on to the stallholders - who cannot afford significant rent increases (although this point is probably moot because the terms of the tender also expressly forbid any sub-letting).
“We are deeply concerned that the Goods Shed might close,” said the chairwoman of Mossel Bay Tourism, Jeanetta Marais.
“Closure would result in disaster for the stallholders, and would probably force most of them to close the businesses that support them, their families, and their employees.
“From a tourism perspective, the loss of such a large, well-known, well-used, and well-loved attraction would have negative effects on the town as a whole – especially since it’s the attractions that set Mossel Bay apart and make it the popular tourist destination that it is.
“In these economic times, we cannot afford to lose a single attraction or even a single job.”
Mossel Bay Tourism board member, Fred Orban – who owns Sandpiper Cottages self-catering accommodation in Boggomsbaai – said that the importance of attractions should not be underrated.
“Without its attractions, a destination would be nothing,” he said.
“The presence of any large attraction benefits every part of the community because it brings people to the destination as a whole, and not just to its own doors.
“The Goods Shed is particularly important because it provides a space in which small businesses can thrive, and where visitors can meet locals and see the art and crafts that they’re producing. This is what makes it an iconic attraction on Mossel Bay’s Art Route.
“From the point of view of responsibility to one’s fellow human beings, Mossel Bay Tourism hopes that the TNPA will reconsider the terms of the tender, and make it possible for the Municipality to keep The Goods Shed going.
“It would be a tragedy if it closes on the 31st of December – right in the very middle of the busiest time of the year.”