By Carlena Knight
A new US$2 million property has been earmarked to replace the Jolly Beach Resort which closed more than two years ago.
According to the latest Cabinet notes, an MOU will be signed in the coming months with an unnamed investor and three additional partners.
However, according to Information Minister Melford Nicholas, this new development does not change the government’s previously announced plans to purchase the property itself as a last resort, but does bring another option to the table to ensure that the hundreds of former staff receive the EC$7 million owed to them in outstanding pay and severance.
“It gives the government another option because, at the end of the day, it puts more money at the disposal of the government.
“If we have a competent investor that is prepared to purchase, then it means that we will be able to liquidate the equity that we have in the facility and we will be able to make those obligations to workers whose severance is pending.
“So, it doesn’t really change the government’s intent and what I would say is that if the investor proves to be true, it improves the government’s options and so, it is a good position to be in going forward,” Nicholas said.
Government and statutory bodies alone are owed around EC$80 million by the defunct business which closed at the onset of the pandemic.
Cabinet announced in February that government was set to take steps to buy and reopen the hotel using US$200 million raised through the European stock market.
The news came while talks were still underway with a handful of investors interested in buying the property, and despite some promising dialogue, government was not convinced they had the resources to meet the cost of the property which is currently in receivership.
According to the notes, the new hotel, which will not be an all-inclusive resort, will feature 150 rooms and villas and is estimated to take about three years to build.
It is also expected that the new hotel will employ more staff per head than the Jolly Beach Resort.
Demolition on the property could be completed by April 2023, the notes added.