by Rio Helmi

Yesterday morning, around 9:30-10am according to neighbors, a blaze erupted from the popular Clear Café. The flames spread swiftly to their neighbours resulting in devastating material loss – fortunately no lives were lost.

The café, which over the last couple of years had developed a reputation for its ingenious raw and cooked healthy dishes, was equally known for its funky glass, bamboo and water décor. In its latest renovation the theme continued with alang-alang thatch coming down some of the wall.  The information that we have heard so far from the Bendesa Adat (Adat Elder) of Padang Tegal and other members of the banjar council points to a spark from incense sticks that were being lit for morning offerings. The alang-alang thatch caught the spark and in very little time burst into flames.

The fire spread quickly to the back (west side) and front, consuming the dining areas and the kitchen, and then spreading to the neighbors to the south, west and north. In all, four compounds were affected, and in particular two households linked to I Made Kepug were completely destroyed along with nearly every last scrap of their belongings. These two were to the south and west of Clear’s kitchen. Directly to the north two buildings in the compound of Nyoman Suweta were burned to the ground  as well as the family shrine, and to the north of that again the family shrine of Gusti Ngurah Indrawaja was also destroyed.


Clear Café ruins (inside yellow police line) seen from Made Kepug’s compound. Kepug’s compound was totally destroyed along with 3 motorcycles.

Several troubling issues have come up as a result of this incident, and by chance this morning I was pulled into a council meeting in Padang Tegal presided over by the bendesa Made Gandra. The council members expressed their dismay that not only did the firetrucks from Gianyar arrive late, they arrived completely unprepared with no water in their tanks. By the time they were somewhat organized the fire had done serious damage. Surely by now Ubud is big enough for its own fire station?

Then there are questions of liability. As far as we know Clear was at least partly expat run under a nominee agreement. Legally this could mean that the Indonesian nominee is liable in this case, yet if the nominee was not actively involved in running the business, making decisions etc it would be somewhat unjust. Conceivably there would be nothing to legally stop an expat owner from picking up and leaving the country after a similar incident as technically it would not be his/her business.

Though we very much doubt that this would be the case with the Clear owners – in fact we have been told that they have declared that they will take responsibility – it is a point that Indonesian nominees should very much take into consideration and be informed of when they sign that piece of paper. Not only is the nominee procedure mostly illegal, it has negative repercussions all the way around. But another  illustration of the lack of legal rigour that arises in the expat businees world: this morning when I was photographing the site I found an expat photographer wandering around behind the yellow police line taking pictures and arranging pieces of the debris for his pictures. He told me he was doing this for the owners who needed the shots for fund raising purposes to help out their staff. To date we have not been able to reach the owners for any comment.


Crossing the yellow lines.

Another point to consider is that local banjars should make at least some effort to check on the legality, safety and security, etc of business premises in their domain. Naturally this would not be a question of overriding the concerned government department’s authority but more that enforcing it. As this case shows, it’s obviously not only the safety and security of the establishment’s clientele that come into question but also that of the community.

Now the banjar has rallied to help provide (as it is supposed to) for its members there will be a call for donations. In particular Made Kepug’s extended family has suffered a serious blow, which they currently estimate at about IDR 840 million (around USD 80,000.-). So far we have not seen the estimates for damages in the compounds of Nyoman Suweta and Gusti Ngurah Indrawaja.  However Padang Tegal community is organizing some kind of a charity drive and will provide us an account number soon, and  HUBUD is also organizing a crowd funding drive geared towards the expat community, and as soon as we have the details we will post them both here and on our Facebook page.


A list of damages drawn up by Made Kepug’s family.