The Crane Resort today announced it would likely shut down its beach operations on Saturday during a planned protest against the luxury hotel.
General Manager Sean Alleyne said it would not be fair to allow staff and guests of the 130-year-old property to be caught up in the protest, being led by Anthony Gabby Carter, the veteran entertainer and cultural ambassador, who suggested that The Crane wanted to privatize the beach.
Carter sparked a public outcry yesterday when he publicly declared that hotel owner Paul Doyle had evicted two vendors earlier this month on the grounds that the section on which they had been operating for years belonged to the hotel.
However, Alleyne told Barbados TODAY an agreement had been reached with the vendors, therefore the planned protest made no sense at all.
“I don’t see the point in the protest at the Crane beach at this stage. I think that, one, we have solved the issue and two, with that large amount of people planning to come to the beach, I am actually seriously considering closing our entire beach facility,” Alleyne disclosed.
“I don’t want our staff to be caught up in any melee. So I will more than likely close down our restaurant on the beach and not have our beach people on Saturday if the protest continues,” he stressed, while adding that in good conscience the hotel could not allow its guests to be “down there amongst that”.
One of the vendors who had been removed, but has since been allowed back to conduct business, confirmed that an agreement had been reached with the hotel for the vendors to continue plying her trade.
She said the over 150 lounge chairs which the internationally acclaimed hotel had withdrawn from the beach and locked in a container, had all been returned.
“The Crane released the chairs yesterday and we collected them today and we resumed business as usual. I am in my same location and ready to work. I am happy that we have come to an agreement that this whole situation is not between the vendors and The Crane, but is a Crown issue, and I am back in operation,” Nicole Blades told Barbados TODAY this afternoon.
Still, Blades, who is in her 40s, and who said she had been conducting her rent-a-beach-chair business from that spot since she was 19, is supporting Saturday’s protest, claiming she had no doubt the resort wanted privatize the beach.
The vendor said the row had been ongoing for a number of years, and that “privatization” signs had been posted in 2009, 2011, 2016 and 2017, but had been taken down on each occasion after intervention by the National Conservation Commission (NCC).
“There are issues related to this Crane beach and other beaches . . . and they are trying to privatize. They are trying to find any loophole to say ‘this is my beach, you are not supposed to vend here . . . you are not supposed to walk here . . . you are not supposed to go anywhere unless you are instructed by the guard’, and that shouldn’t be,” Blades contended.
However, the hotel’s general manager denied that privatization signs had ever been erected on the beach, explaining that “before we had signs up by where our chairs are that said no trespassing. We were having an issue with unlicensed people harassing our guests, trying to sell guests stuff on the beach”.
Several other vendors have also pledged their support for the weekend protest, arguing the issue went beyond The Crane to what appeared to be attempts by businesses to privatize the island’s beaches.
“It is a disgusting thing for a businessman who is not even a Bajan to want to come to Barbados and say a beach is his,” Shawn Weekes of Official Coconut Cocktails contended.
“The protest is not about Crane, it is about the beaches in Barbados,” he added.
“When they took up the vendors’ chairs, they took money out of the vendors’ pockets because the vendors have families to feed too,” said another, who requested anonymity.
Quoting from Gabby’s 1982 hit, Jack, he emphasized that it was important that all locals and visitors knew that the island’s beaches fell under the NCC’s mandate.
Another vendor said the issue of privatization impacted every beach on the island, therefore, “the protest is something good for all Bajans to let them know that we need to stand up for our rights and don’t let other people from [overseas] come and push us around”.
Meantime, in a statement issued today through the Barbados Government Information Service, NCC General Manager Keith Neblett made it clear there are no private beaches in Barbados.
Neblett defined a beach as the land adjoining the foreshore of Barbados and extending not beyond 33 metre beyond the landward limit of the foreshore.
However, he said from time to time beaches got bigger or smaller based on the weather, resulting in changes to the high water mark.
“We are going to get the chief surveyor from the Ministry of Housing and Lands in a week’s time to establish the clear area of what is a beach. After that is established, there would be no doubt for any person who wants to use the beach at the Crane or any other beach . . . as to what the public has access to,” he said.