Café Manhattan, a Cape Town gay institution, was briefly closed after a bomb threat that appears to have been related to its LGBTIQ patrons.
Vlogger Adam Spires said he noticed that the popular LGBTIQ restaurant and bar was closed and surrounded by police tape on Wednesday, while having lunch with a friend in the De Waterkant area.
In a Facebook video, he also reported seeing army or police officers at the venue. It’s believed that sniffer dogs were used to search for any dangerous devices.
Spires said that a member of staff told him that “there has been a bomb threat here”, and that an email was sent claiming that Café Manhattan was “breaking the Islamic code of the area.”
Spires said the incident made him sad and frustrated because, “we all have different opinions, whether you have opinions about gay marriage, whether you have opinions about ‘gay’ in general… but no matter what, everyone should have the right and freedom to open a business wherever they want…”
News24 reported that police confirmed that a bomb threat had been made and that a suspicious parcel found at the site was “negative”. The matter is now under investigation.
LGBTIQ rights group Triangle Project said it was alarmed by the news. “Like others we do not know the full details of the incident but are very concerned about any threats to the LGBTIQ communities in Cape Town,” Matthew Clayton, Research, Advocacy and Policy Manager, told Mambaonline. “Actions like this aim to spread fear and uncertainty and to sow division.”
He further expressed concern about anyone who claims that their hatred is motivated by religion. “Many LGBTIQ people in Cape Town are religious and their connection to their faith, be it Christianity, Islam, African Traditional or Judaism, is an important part of their lives,” said Clayton.
“We call on the SAPS to investigate these threats swiftly and to assure the LGBTIQ communities that their rights are protected,” he added.
The De Waterkant area is popular with the LGBTIQ community in Cape Town and has been the location for a number of LGBTIQ venues over the years, some of which have been targeted with violence before.
On 6 November, 1999, the old Blah Bar gay venue was hit by a bomb, injuring nine people. On 19 August, 2000, three people were injured after a car bomb exploded outside the since-closed Bronx gay nightclub, also on Somerset Road.
An offshoot of the violent group Pagad (People Against Gangsterism and Drugs), called People Against Prostitution And Sodomy (Papas), was linked to the attacks. In 2002, Pagad leader Abdus Salaam Ebrahim was convicted of public violence and imprisoned for seven years. No-one, however, was ever convicted directly for the gay club bombs.
The latest bomb threat is hopefully a once-off or a crank incident and does not represent a resurgence in violent “moral” vigilantism in the city.
Mambaonline on Thursday morning contacted Café Manhattan, which confirmed that it is open as usual. Management was not available for comment.