The row over the use of Crane Beach by two lounge chair vendors is heading to court, with the hotel at the centre of the dispute, The Crane Resort, set to sue state-owned beach regulator, the National Conservation Commission (NCC).
Declaring that the dispute was not with the vendors who ply their trade there, but with the NCC, Crane Beach General Manager Sean Alleyne told Barbados TODAY this afternoon his company will be filing an application in the High Court next week, challenging the legality of the commission to grant commercial licences to private entities to compete with the facility on its own property.
At issue has been the “disproportionate” amount of space shared between the vendors and the hotel as a result of the licences granted to them by the NCC.
“Our only issue has been with the allocation of beach chair vending licences by NCC for commercial use of the part of the beach that resides within our land boundaries, including the storage of beach chairs. Our research has shown that The Crane is the only hotel in Barbados where NCC licences have been given to beach chair vendors on, or directly in front of, hotel property,” Alleyne said.
However, he revealed that agreement was reached this morning with the vendors for them to continue operating on the beach and to store their chairs in a more proportionate area than previously utilized. The general manager noted that talks with the NCC were not as successful.
“We have not reached an agreement with the NCC as we believe that this would actually have to be settled with the courts. We have met with the vendors and we have made an agreement with them that they can continue to ply their trade and we will settle the issue directly with the NCC.
“We are asking the court to declare what is the definition of control in the NCC Act and if the NCC has the power to issue private entities licences to carry out commercial activities on lands that The Crane presently pays taxes on,” he stressed, adding this had nothing to do with the public traversing the beach even up to the high water mark.
Alleyne explained that when the vendors started using the beach some 20 years ago it was easy for the hotel to share half of the space with them because it was an 18-room facility.
However, he said the hotel had since expanded to 457 rooms that accommodate over 800 guests.
“We are continuing to utilize the same space to service our guests, resulting in a vast disproportionate use of the beach with hundreds of guests hugged on one half and far less on the other. This has harshly impacted guest satisfaction over the past several years,” he contended, adding that the space could become even more limited as the hotel considered the possible addition of a further 300 rooms and 400 employees within the next five to ten years.
But today, an incensed Anthony Gabby Carter, a veteran entertainer and cultural ambassador, sparked a public outcry when he publicly declared that hotel owner Paul Doyle had evicted the vendors earlier this month on the grounds that the section on which they had been operating for year belonged to the luxury resort.
Gabby, who more than 30 years ago declared, “dah beach is mine” when he wrote the hit song Jack, also announced plans to made a similar declaration this Saturday by leading a chair protest at Crane Beach.
“I got news for him [Paul Doyle]. The beach belong to us, and in Bajan parlance, the beach belong to we, so therefore we will be leading a protest.
“We want Barbadians by their thousands to put their chairs down by the Crane to let him know that that beach belong to us and he cannot take it from us, he or no other person on this earth, none. We will die defending that beach, ” he told Barbados TODAY in an interview.
Amidst the strong public outcry, the hotel today said it had “no desire to privatize Crane Beach” and that “the public has always been, and will always be, welcome to enjoy the beach”.
The resort has however failed to convince Gabby to call off the planned action.
In fact the artiste insisted Barbadians still had a duty to send a strong message.
“We will still be going at 1 p.m. on Saturday. I am asking the public to assemble in Queens Park at 12 and then we will head to the Crane at 1 p.m.”
At issue, Gabby charged, are the same concerns that surfaced 36 years ago when Jack Dear, a lawyer for the then Barbados Board of Tourism, declared that hotel owners had the right to take their property down to the waterfront.
“What he [Paul Doyle] is really utilizing is an old law that states that property owners have the right to bring their property to the high water mark. It is the same ploy that Jack Dear tried to employ when he was representing the hotel owners and hotel operators back in 1982, which prompted me the write the song, Jack.
“They are talking about law and I am talking about justice. It is a violation of the people’s rights. We want to send a message out to him and to all his cohorts that we will not tolerate that nonsense in this country,” he explained.
According to the Laws of Barbados CAP. 393, “ beach includes the land adjoining the foreshore of Barbados and extending not more than 33 metres beyond the landward limit of the foreshore”.
Meanwhile, Barbadians have expressed strong support for Gabby’s position on social media and on radio, with several people saying that all beaches on the island must remain fully accessible to the public.
Gabby also suggested that the “vast majority of Barbadians were on his side because this is a just fight we are putting down here”.
“This is a fight not for us, this is a fight for children that will be born one and two and three hundred years from now . . . .This is not a fight about Gabby and ego and popularity or some nonsense like that. This is a fight for all generations to come, this is what it is,” he said.