Springbok Pub is being torn down

Contractors were clearing up rubble on that side of the old Newlands pub.

The old Springbok Pub in Newlands will soon be no more.

The Passenger Railway Agency of South Africa (PRASA), which owns the rundown property, has handed the site over to contractors who have started demolition work that is expected to finish in June.

A three-metre high, see-through fence will be put up around the site, according to Prasa spokeswoman Nana Zenani.

For many years the pub – not far from the old Newlands Rugby Stadium and the Newlands Cricket Ground – was a haven for sports fans looking to toast a win or drown a defeat.

The owners of the pub relocated to Lower Main Road, in Observatory, in September 2019, and the premises, which included a one-storey building and old train carriages, had been empty since then. The only visitors were thieves and vandals who were after much more than a pint: they stripped window frames, doors and roof sheets. What they didn’t take, they broke, including windows and toilet tiles.

Parts of the old train carriages are still attached to the building. We asked Prasa what would happen to these and Heritage Western Cape about their possible heritage value, but both were unable to respond to these questions by deadline.

The former ward councillor Ian Iversen warned Prasa about the vandalism and the urgent need for security at the site (“Old Newlands pub in ruins,” Southern Suburbs Tatler,” October 22, 2020), but the parastatal was slow to respond.

The current ward councillor, Mikhail Manuel, said it was a relief that Prasa was finally taking action.

“It has been a lengthy effort with multiple meetings to try to get this issue resolved. From the outset, our approach has been an offer of partnership to Prasa for any assistance they might need to make the site safer for the public and residents of the area.”

The site had been occupied by the homeless, and it had been a magnet for petty crime and used as an escape route across the railway tracks by criminals, he said.

Groote Schuur Community Improvement District manager Barbara Breedt said fencing the site would improve security.

“I am glad they are making plans to demolish the building. It became an eyesore to drive past.”

Newlands Residents’ Association chairman March Turnbull said the pub had been something of a legend in its day, and there were some who would feel a twinge of nostalgia about its demise. But its fall into ruin had birthed a big hangover for the neighbourhood.

“Apart from the structural neglect when the pub closed, the building became a hub of criminal activity, day and night,” he said, adding that he was grateful that Prasa was taking action.

Ms Zenani blamed “internal processes” in the tender procedure for Prasa’s delayed action.

Prasa’s property division would decide later what to do with the site, she said.

What remains of the dance floor at the old Springbok Pub in Newlands.
This is what the entrance to the old pub now looks like.
The old Springbok Pub in its heyday.