By Carlena Knight
Cabinet is reassuring former employees of the Jolly Beach Resort that the government still intends to honour all obligations regarding severance and other outstanding payments.
Hundreds of former workers, at least two of whom have since died, are collectively owed more than EC$7 million.
Government and statutory bodies alone are also owed around EC$80 million by the business which has been closed since the start of the Covid pandemic.
Information Minister Melford Nicholas made the commitment on Thursday during the post-Cabinet press briefing.
“Government’s intention is to honour those obligations to the workers. We are moving as fast as we can,” Nicholas said.
He made the assurance following recent news that it could take the government at least two years to address the latest issue blocking the sale of the resort.
Last week, the government announced that it had encountered a hurdle in its quest to sell the property, as it was discovered there’s a $15 million charge on it by a creditor.
Due to this new development, Cabinet has revealed plans to refurbish hundreds of the rooms at the resort through a temporary lease to an unnamed hotelier.
“We are examining the possibility of getting an operator to work with us in a short-term lease arrangement so that we can have these additional rooms by the end of the summer [so that] when the tourism season opens, we have the additional option of those rooms at Jolly Beach,” he explained.
The government took over the Jolly Beach property in 2020 due to the business owing millions of dollars to the state.
The 464-room resort has been closed since March 2020 when travel to the twin island nation came to a halt as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, the defunct Grand Princess Casino, a short walk away from the resort in Jolly Harbour, is also set for a much-needed overhaul, Nicholas revealed.
The casino, which was once bustling with people and entertainment, has been left in a dilapidated state since its closure in 2007.
“The lot where the casino is, there is a plan to refurbish that particular area and a portion of the lands at Jolly Beach,” Nicholas said.
“The existing footprint of the lands at the Jolly Beach facility, a portion of it has been demarcated and will be added to the lot where the casino is. We have an investor at this moment who is looking at developing another facility there as well.
“So, the idea is that perhaps the new investor will either repurpose that building or replace it with something that is more in keeping with the investment that they intend to put in place,” he added.
Plans are also in the pipeline for another government-owned hotel, Halcyon Cove.
According to the notes, the Dickenson Bay-based hotel which was leased to an Indian group is to be sold to another hotel operator.
That potential buyer was not named but negotiations are said to be currently underway.
“We received word yesterday from the attorneys for the company that is going to be refurbishing the Halcyon Cove hotel that it is just a matter of days now before they have completed the paperwork, such that they will be in a position to submit for consideration to the DCA their plans for refurbishing that facility and we should expect later in the year some renovation work to be done on that project,” Nicholas detailed.
Halcyon was recently used as a government quarantine facility before it was closed for repairs.