Prominent businesswoman Asha Ms Ram Mirchandani tonight declared “shock” and “pain” as she rushed to meet a deadline to shutter her Liquidation Centre to make way for high-rise hotel development on Bay Street.
Dissatisfied with the Government’s valuation of the early 20th century warehouses that were converted into a variety store, she declared that negotiations were still in progress up to Friday, when Government ordered her to immediately vacate the property, which was compulsory acquired earlier this year to allow for the Hyatt hotel among other developments.
Police were set to move in Monday and seize the building and its contents for storage.
In a statement today, Attorney General Dale Marshall said the courts denied an injunction to stall the closure.
The statement said: “The owners sought injunctive relief through the High Court, which dismissed the application on the basis that there was no serious issue to be tried.
“The company then sought a stay of execution, which the court also rejected.”
Government had served notice on the owners since March and had given the operators a November 15 deadline to vacate the property, even as discussions on the process of compensation continued.
Mirchandani was adamant that the company’s negotiations were not over.
She said: ‘”Our negotiations have not been completed in the sense that the valuation was done by the Government Surveyor which is totally nonsensical; he has not taken the open market value; he has compared our value with a property in St Lucy.
“You don’t compare apples with oranges, you don’t compare the property in size.
“Our valuer pointed out those faults to the Government and we wrote them a letter.
” We also wrote them a letter about what our stock was.
“They have not sat down with us to reply in terms of what we need for compensation, what we need for severance, what we need for other expenses to move and also what about a new location.”
But as the clock ran down on the store’s last hours, scores of people descended on the Bay Street to cash in on the high bargains, prompting police to be called to maintain the crowds.
The full statement from Attorney General Marshall reads:
Yesterday, Saturday, November 16, 2019, two companies owned by the Ram Mirchandani family, Furniture Limited and Tiny Tots Limited, took the Government to court seeking an urgent application to prevent the Government from taking possession of the building on Bay Street occupied by the Liquidation Centre.
This property was acquired by Government through the compulsory acquisition process of Parliament, with the notice to acquire having been served on the owners since March this year. This property forms part of the tourism footprint identified by the Mia Mottley Administration for a number of hotel developments, including the new Hyatt.
While Government now effectively owns the property, the process of compensation has not been completed. However, discussions have been on-going between the Government and the previous owners, with a commitment to pay as soon as agreement has been reached.
In the meanwhile, the November 4, 2019 deadline to turn over possession of the property to the Government had not been met, but the company wrote Government asking for an extension of occupation until January 2020, which Government rejected, on the grounds that the company had been given more than enough time to complete its relocation.
On Friday, November 15, 2019 the operators of the Liquidation Centre were instructed to immediately vacate the property and informed that if they failed to, on Monday, November 18, 2019 Government would take active possession and remove to storage all items still inside the building.
In response, the owners sought injunctive relief through the High Court, which dismissed the application on the basis that there was no serious issue to be tried. The company then sought a stay of execution, which the court also rejected.
This means that barring any further instructions from the court, tomorrow morning, (November 18, 2019) personnel from the Ministry of Housing and Lands, with the assistance of the Royal Barbados Police Force, will take possession of the Liquidation Centre building and begin the process of removing and storing all materials within.