By Shermain Bique-Charles
In a matter of just one week, financially crippled Jolly Beach Resort could have a new owner, as a company from Canada is reportedly finalising contracts for the US$33 million sale.
In September, the Gaston Browne-led government announced that it had begun talks with prospective buyers, some of whom were from the United States and Canada.
“A receiver is in the process of signing an agreement with Wind Group … and we remain hopeful that the deal will be consummated within the next six to nine days,” Browne told Observer yesterday.
While admitting that he did not want to divulge too much information about the company prior to finalising the contract, Browne said he is confident that these buyers have what it takes to transform the hotel.
He added, however, that his government has extended concessions to the prospective owners.
“We asked them to expand and repair the hotel in a modular way so that parts of the property can continue to be utilised, or they can continue to trade in the interim so we can put some of the workers back to work as soon as possible, and they agreed,” he said.
When the coronavirus pandemic forced the hotel to close its doors at the end of March, about 500 workers were displaced.
And, according to the displaced staff, they have not been informed about their outstanding payments, to include severance.
The prime minister said the government is not legally liable to settle severance or any other payments to the resort’s staff. But he pledged to prioritise such payments once the sale is complete.
Initially, the government had announced that businessman Calvin Ayre would purchase the property and restructure it into a high-end resort, but Browne said the number of rooms would have been reduced significantly; a move that was not in the interest of the government and the former workers.
“So, we had to decline that sale on the basis that, even though we are trying to transition to the high-end sector, we also need some hotels that would have the volume that will fill the back of the plane and provide significant amounts of employment opportunities,” Browne explained.
Meanwhile, once the sale is completed, the government envisages that it could take three years before the property is ready to receive guests.