So, for now there will be no plane to some far off destination. My wheels are going stay grounded, focused on my hometown for at least the next couple of months. Over the last couple of years Durban has evolved and many new and exciting restaurants and other places have opened. It’s time for me to become more acquainted with what our sunny city has to offer visitors nowadays and to decide which of these venues, sights or activities are ideal for disabled travelers.
As restaurants and night spots go, accessibility usually is not at the top of the priority list, so I am excited to see what’s out there and which establishments will allow disabled visitors to enjoy whatever is on offer in Durban.
My criteria for reviewing accessibility in public establishments are simple and I’ll try to stick to my fields of expertise, ultimately sharing my ♿️rating out of 5. I’m no food fundi so although I will add my opinion on those types of aspects, my focus will always be on accessibility. Criteria will include:
- Overall space: table height, floor space, 180 and 360 turning space, etc.
- Floor surface: carpets, level changes, texture
- Entrances: automatic door opener, door width, ramp, etc.
- Toilet facilities: handles, grab bar, sink height, stall measurements, etc.
- Outdoor space
031 Bar & Restaurant at Distillery031
I’ve been to Station Drive Precinct before, but previous visits excluded the much talked about Distillery031. Feeling like a chilled night out with family and friends we chose 031 Bar & Restaurant for dinner and more specifically, for their home brewed gin and tonic! Situated close to Kingspark Stadium, off Umgeni Road, it’s fairly easy to find.
- Parking: We arrived early evening so parking was freely available, but if my memory serves me correctly it gets very busy and crowded quite quickly with parking becoming a bit of a nightmare later at night. There are no designated handicapped parking spaces but the car guards are quite keen to assist in finding a more accessible parking space in the level area at the bottom of Station Drive if at all possible. There is a steep incline up the road to the entrance and the road and pavement surfaces are really uneven. With the help of my clan, I could get there but on my own I can only imagine the challenge!
- Entrance – Arriving at the entrance to 031 Distillery, it seemed that the only way to get to 031 Bar & Restaurant was up a couple of flights of stairs, which obviously would be a major hassle for me and definitely problematic for those less physically able than myself. Some members of our party went ahead to explore another possible entrance but the staff available to assist were insistent that the stairs were our only option. We weren’t going to back out of the evening so with much help we traversed the stairs! However, when we left I thought I would just ask someone else again about the possibility of an elevator or a ramp entrance and low-and-behold there was a far simpler and more accessible way into 031. Jordan Semper, 031’s resident chef kindly explained that disabled visitors simply need to ask for the gated entrance up the service ramp and into the kitchen to be opened, excluding all of the steps completely. He added that they need a couple of minutes to open up and make space so I would imagine calling ahead would be the best option if you’re not keen on waiting – particularly if it’s raining. It’s a pity that the other staff members in the restaurant didn’t know that when we arrived – heads-up to 031 to let all of their staff members know!
- Overall Space – 031 Bar & Restaurant revealed itself as a sizable, modern-industrial space with a view of the distillery as part of their decor and layout. I loved the wide passage coming into 031, the vacant space around the bar area and the space allowed between tables which made it easy for me to wheel around in my chair with few obstacles. With few guests at the time I could do a 360° turn in-between the tables, suggesting that it may be less of a nightmare than some other places to get around when it’s really busy. 031 chose a decent table height which allowed me to stay comfortably in my chair without knocking my knees or needing to lean forward to reach my plate. Thank goodness that they opted for a simple table design without intricate cross bars etc. that always prevent a comfortable seating position since the more detailed designs usually prevent me from pulling my wheelchair in under the table like someone one a regular chair. Loved that!
- Flooring – 031 went with a concrete, screeted floor, providing the ideal surface for wheelchairs or other walking aids. No small bumps or cracks that cause sudden jerks or obstacles, only smooth driving. Well done on the floor!
- Toilet Facilities – So my least favourite thing about 031 had to be their toilet facilities. There are no designated facilities for disabled visitors. The space into the ladies’ toilets allowed me to enter into the front area where the basin is situated, close the door snugly behind my chair and use one of two regular sized toilets with the door open – the space inside the toilets is really limited. No handles or grab bars are installed in either of the toilets. Although the basin height was fine, I couldn’t freely turn my chair around to use it, which made the experience uncomfortable and awkward. Unfortunately not the ideal toilet facilities at all for disabled visitors.
The 031 Bar & Restaurant Experience
The chilled, yet trendy vibe at 031 made for a really enjoyable evening. Service overall was good and Andile, our waitress was attentive and professional. Although 031 offers a provocative menu, filled with several street styled food options, I opted to stay traditional ordering a burger. We didn’t need to wait long for our food and although the presentation was picturesque and the bun was to die for, my beef pattie was a little rare for my taste – we weren’t given a cooking option when we ordered and I didn’t specify. I absolutely loved the crockery and the presentation of the food and all of our drinks.
031’s signature, all natural gin & tonic definitely did not disappoint and after winning the battle over the stairs when we arrived the first one hardly touched sides. Suffice to say, I had to have another to savour the taste in more detail and it certainly went down well!
Is 031 For Disabled Visitors: Yes of No?
Disabled visitors will definitely enjoy 031’s spacious interior, the ambience and vibe, the food and the home brewed drinks. With the exception of their bathroom facilities and the initial challenge with the entrance, it rates pretty decent as accessibility goes once you’re inside. Visiting 031 will definitely be easier in a group with others to assist up the steep incline from the parking area, unless you’re really fit and strong and super nifty in your chair!
With minor changes or additions to their toilets, signage at the main entrance and on their website to inform disabled guests about the ramp entrance option and how to arrange for it and definitely informing their staff about it as well, I believe 031 will shine on the list of places to visit and enjoy while visiting Durban as a disabled traveler or tourist. 031 I will be visiting again.
My accessibility rating for 031: ♿️♿️♿️ out of 5