Antigua and Barbuda’s Economic Envoy, billionaire philanthropist Calvin Ayre, has not only dismissed recent claims of victimisation by beach vendors, but he has now announced plans to rename the beach at Jolly Harbour — ‘Bodog Beach’.
Ayre, a Canadian-Antiguan entrepreneur based in Antigua and Barbuda, is the founder of the Ayre Group and Bodog entertainment brand.
Speaking exclusively to OBSERVER media on Friday on the sidelines of the opening of his global headquarters, dubbed “Canada Place” in Woods, Ayre announced, “I’m actually gonna be renaming Castaways, the beach club I just bought, to Bodog Beach.”
A number of vendors, who have been plying their trade on the beach for many years, have accused Ayre and Prime Minister Gaston Browne of using their considerable wealth and influence to force them off the beach.
The Development Control Authority (DCA), and the Tourism Department have both joined together to serve notice on the vendors to either vacate or relocate their businesses to make way for the development interests borne by both men.
When asked to comment on the vendors’ accusation, however, Ayre remarked that, “there’s a lot of misinformation coming out of those vendors”.
“I think the appropriate people to talk to about the vendors would most likely be the Tourism [department].”
“We aren’t doing anything on the beach,” he rebutted. “All we’re doing is fixing the club up.”
During the impasse, the DCA had issued several notices for the vendors to relocate, and recently used backhoes and large trucks to forcibly remove the vendors’ property, to include beach chairs and other structures from the beach.
Subsequently, the department had given the vendors the option of operating on the beach with the condition that all of the beach equipment must be cleared from the beach at the end of the working day.
For many, if not all, as the vendors told OBSERVER media, this would mean that they would have to incur significant additional costs as they would have to procure the use of trucks to transport the over 50 beach chairs and other equipment they use on a daily basis to ply their trade.
Ayre, said however, that, as he understood it, “Gaston and the government are working … and has given them some new facilities that’s slightly down the beach.”