Former Fort Clarence food vendors want in on development
Former concessionaires at Fort Clarence Beach are restive, having closed down their operations last week after a decade to make way for upgrade works at the property by Guardsman Hospitality Limited (GHL), which will manage the premises for the next 25 years.
The former food and beverage vendors at the beach say they have been left in the cold and are seeking dialogue with GHL on how they could be part of the new operation when it reopens on October 18.
Guardsman Hospitality assumed management and operational responsibility for the attraction on September 1, having won a bid during a divestment process managed by PricewaterhouseCoopers on behalf of the Urban Development Corporation (UDC).
The property remains in the ownership of the UDC.
André Smith, the owner of Andre’s Fish Den, is one former concessionaire who wants to resume operations at the facility after the upgrade.
“We got the notice and we are off the property now. We are trying to reach out to the new operators. Nobody has come to us. They made preparation and have spoken to some of the ground staff who worked for UDC. We are still waiting to get some dialogue,” he told The Gleaner.
Smith, who has been serving up dishes at the location for the past 13 years, said his customers have been querying his next move.
“Several customers ask us what is going to happen. Last weekend, we had Sheryl Lee Ralph and she heard and asked what we intend to do. We have cleared the space and moved out everything. At this point, we don’t know if we will be a part of the plans going forward,” he said.
With staff depending on him to earn their bread, Smith said he and another former concessionaire tried, without success, to have dialogue with GHL representatives.
“UDC has the ground crew, lifeguards and customer care. Guardsman booked two days with them last week Monday and Tuesday. When I reached up there Tuesday, they were gone, and I didn’t have a chance to be heard. I really want a chance, and my staff is depending on me as well,” he said. “The place did a run down, but we never want get fix out. None of the three [former concessionaires] were given an opportunity.”
When The Gleaner contacted Guardsman Hospitality, General Manager Laura Heron said the company was still evaluating the scope of work to be undertaken in the short term.
“The existing structures that were occupied by the concessions are scheduled for evaluation by our engineering team later this week as they appear to be structurally compromised,” she said.
According to Heron, that evaluation will determine GHL’s next move relating to food offerings at the location during the redevelopment period.
“That being said, we will be preparing to go to open tender for food and beverage concessions. The previous operators are welcome to submit their proposals at that time. They will be evaluated based on their history with the location. This will be a very transparent process,” she added.
The UDC has indicated that GHL has been granted a 25-year lease based on a development plan that proposes the upgrading of the beach park to enhance visitor experience.
According to the UDC, guests can expect improvements, which will include enhanced site infrastructure, upgrades to restrooms and changing facilities, the restaurant and bar, as well as new land- and sea-based activities.
It also said GHL would be responsible for maintaining Fort Clarence Beach, including addressing the influx of sargassum (seaweed) impacting Jamaica’s south coast.