Clay Café on the mend

Clay Cafe marketing director, Jade Saunders, amid the ruins of the collections room.

The Clay Cafe, the popular Hout Bay ceramic-painting venue and restaurant, is getting back on its feet after suffering a devastating fire last month.

The fire on Friday June 15 destroyed the establishment’s private function space, The Green Room, as well as the Collections Room, which at the time housed 12 000 ceramic pieces that had been painted by customers.

These had an estimated value of R1.3 million.

Investigations into the cause of the fire are ongoing, but the Clay Cafe remains open.

The fire was contained to the back area of the property; the main seating area, restaurant and playground were unaffected.

“Some 85% of our clients have been very understanding about what has happened and are extremely sympathetic and supportive during this difficult time for us,” said Clay Cafe marketing director, Jade Saunders.

“They understand the processes involved and that we have to wait for the investigation to be concluded and insurance matters to be settled.

“We are wanting to give people the opportunity to repaint again if they wish, but unfortunately at this stage we can’t confirm these details.

“The reality is that we are a family-run business and the cost of the damage is substantial.

“We have assured our 80 staff members that no one will be losing their jobs through this tragedy, and we thank both our staff and our clients for their support. It is a difficult time for everyone.”

Ms Saunders said owners, Christine Irving and her son Michael Bradburn, understood that customers were saddened by the loss of the items, as the pieces represented a memory, “but as a company we look forward to building up new memories and hope to having everyone here again soon”.

She said they had been working around the clock to make sure the tragedy didn’t affect their service.

Shesaiddespiteseveral updates on social media, there had been persistent rumours that the Clay Cafe had closed.

“We want to assure everyone that we are still open for business. Currently we are sitting at approximately 40% capacity in our bookings, which is unheard of at this busy time of year with the school holidays, but we are hoping for an improvement with the news that we are in fact open.”

When the Sentinel visited the establishment on Monday, the main restaurant was a hive of activity and appeared to be near capacity.

“It’s the first time since the fire we’ve been so busy. I think we can put that down to people dropping by and then spreading the word that we’re still open, so we’re very grateful for that,” Ms Saunders said.

The destroyed buildings have been cordoned off with black tarp, and the play area remains open to children.

“First-time visitors probably wouldn’t even know there had been a fire,” Ms Saunders said.

Incredibly, in the ruins of the Collections Room, a few painted ceramics have survived, albeit blackened with soot.

Most, however, have been shattered into thousands of tiny pieces, forming a type of mosaic base where the floor once stood.

Given that the Clay Cafe kept a database of every customer, those who had created art have been informed of their loss by way of email and will be updated about the situation in the coming weeks.