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The Grand Bahama Port Authority (GBPA) has described itself as "dismayed" by criticisms from a Bahamian businessman who closed his Port Lucaya Marketplace restaurant blaming high rents, arguing that he had been "unresponsive" to attempts to resolve the situation.
In a statement sent to Tribune Business, the GBPA said in response to Jeff Butler's Tuesday comments in this newspaper that it had offered lease discounts to all tenants over the past two years.
"We are dismayed that Mr. Jeff Butler, formerly Shenanigan's Irish Pub, felt compelled by the current conditions of the economic climate to make such statements. However, we have consistently worked on a one-on-one bas ...
His name is Keith Gray, but to the people who heard him perform at the Extraordinary People concert in Paris, France, the gospel artist is known as "Halle", short for "Hallelujah".
The 21-year-old busboy, who works at the Bahamian Club restaurant at Atlantis, began using his singing talent to praise God shortly after he attained his 17th birthday, when he said he realized that doing anything unless it was for and to God was selfish. Since then, he has grown from singer to a Christian youth activist. In October 2013, he won the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture's Pacesetter Award in creative arts.
The award was given to the most outstanding Bahamian under 25 who had contributed significantly to arts and culture. Gray did it not only with his singing but by helping other young people find and express their talents.
As the founder of OCD (Obsessively Christ Driven), Gray uses the platform to bring together various Christian artists to stage concerts that include music, dance and poetry. OCD also regularly does community service, which Gray said is critical to its mission "to display God's glorious grace that will stir a passion in the hearts of people for him through love service and ministry".
The success of OCD led to Gray's latest initiative, Four-Walls Down, which encourages church members to go out into the community, providing love and service beyond the church's four walls. Gray hopes that more young men will be inspired to live better lives through the work of his team.
"We don't have a gang problem or a drug problem, but an identity problem," said the activist. We need to go back to what gives us identity and purpose and that comes from the creator. Go back to the creator and find true identity in him, and that's where you find real purpose. Be everything God wants you to be, instead of others. Don't live your life for other people who won't be into you anyway. Live your life for God."
Gray, who maintains a full-time job while working on obtaining a degree, performing and engaging in community organizing, said he is able to do it all because of a combination of balance, God and an intense desire to learn and give.
"Take everything one day at a time" is his advice.
FREEPORT, Bahamas- Bahamian Brewery and Beverage Co Ltd. (BBBC) is about to launch "Bush Crack" in the domestic market - the first local beer to retail in a 16-ounce can.
With about 22.5-to-23 percent of the beer market in The Bahamas now in the BBBC camp, according to sales and marketing manager Lynden Johnson, the company is hoping the new 16-ounce can along with the quality of the product will make it a hit with Bahamians. It could also mean a bigger share of the domestic market for the Grand Bahama based brewers.
"With the introduction of Bush Crack, we will be able to get no less than 30 percent of the market in The Bahamas," Johnson said in an interview with Guardian Business yesterday.
While he did not disclose what that translated to in dollar or volume sales, Johnson did say the size of the local market was around 2.6 million cases of beer per annum. BBBC has no problem 'co-existing' with the other local brewers, according to Johnson, but added that as the only 100 percent Bahamian-owned brewery the company is aiming to make its product-line the 'go-to' beers for Bahamians.
BBBC is targeting the segment of the local market now dominated by foreign beers retailing in16-ounce cans. BBBC General Manager Donald Delahey said Bush Crack provides a high quality, locally brewed alternative to the popular 16-ounce Colt 45 or Busch offers.
With a price point Johnson said would be 'competitive', he anticipates 3-for-$5, or 3-for-$6 retail specials for 5.8 percent alcohol content beer should be well received by the local market.
BBBC hosted a team of 11 managers and directors associated with Atlantis' newest restaurant,Virgil's, to a brewery-tour and sampling opportunity at its Freeport, Grand Bahama plant yesterday. Virgil's has an exclusive to serve the beer on draft.
Johnson said he's hoping the excitement that is building from the vote of confidence cast by Virgil's in choosing Bush Crack will carry over to the local market.
With it's 'Real Barbecue' theme, Virgil's customers have come to expect a broad range of quality beers, according to the Virgil's general manager Amaaris Pichardo. They will also serve the rest of the brewery's line of beer products. The restaurant opens on November 1.
Bush Crack is described as a gold-yellow color beer with a mild bitterness and a tangy, full-bodied taste profile, BBBC's Brew Master Dieter Stich told Guardian Business yesterday.
BBBC is busy crafting another new product as well. The ale they are aiming for would have a darker color and fuller-body than Bush Crack. That product may come to market as early as December, although BBBC is currently gearing up for a January release, Delahey said.
There will be an exclusivity agreement for distribution of that beer with Atlantis, Guardian Business has learned. That beer will likely only be available at its restaurants on tap.
BBBC now has Sands, Sands Light, Strong Back and High Rock in its product line-up. The company won Belgium's Monde Selection Grand Gold for its Strong Back beer in 2010, along with the Gold for the High Rock beer that year.
He’s an Exuma native who has done good, and he heads up one of the top restaurants in the country that you want to dine at for great food with “true-true” Bahamian flavor and flair from the appetizers through to the desserts, including signature martini items from the bar.
Chef Norris “Boxer” McPhee comes out of his corner fighting with the cuisine his staff serves up at Iries Island Seafood Restaurant at the Our Lucaya Beach &?Golf Resort in Freeport, Grand Bahama, offering menu items like Creamy Grouper Chowder, Pigeon and Root Vegetable Broth, Sweet Corn and Plantain Fritter, Thyme and Coconut Breaded Queen Conch on Skewers, Grilled Wild Mutton ...
With preparations for this year's Bahamas Speed Week revving up, tentative plans are being made to kick future events into top gear.
Jimmie Lowe, the event's president, said organizers will soon begin talks with the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and the Ministry of Tourism to mull over the possibility of building a race track for drivers arriving from all over the world - a venture that could mean a boom for the economy.
"The intent is to create tourism," he told Guardian Business. "This is what we envision going forward, but nothing is set in stone. If it did happen, it would facilitate a larger clientele coming, more room nights for Bahamian hotels and the economic impact could be far reaching."
Lowe and his team are currently drafting a proposal to present to the government.
Details such as funding, location and the scope of the project are still in the development phase.
"This is part of our wish list," he added. "It is something we are hoping to have, and it all depends on approvals."
Meanwhile, Bahamas Speed Week, which will run from November 30 until December 4, has recently signed Pictet Bank as an official sponsor of the gala banquet and Auction of Promises to benefit four Bahamian charities.
With a presence in 19 countries, Pictet Bank is one of the world's leading international private financial institutions, and according to Lowe, it elevates Bahamas Speed Week into a new echelon of prestige and opens the door to an elite mix of guests.
"Obviously with having them involved and stepping up to the plate, it creates an opportunity that's huge for everyone," Lowe added.
"It's huge for the event, it's huge for the charities, - by them stepping up, it takes a lot of burden off the organizers."
Pictet Bank joins an impressive list of sponsors, such as Carlo Milano, Graycliff and Bahamas Ferries.
The event is already expected to attract $100 million in classic race cars and should provide a significant tourism boom for Nassau. The goal, Lowe said, is to fill between 4,000 and 5,000 hotel rooms as a direct result of Bahamas Speed Week, not to mention the economic spill off for retailers and restaurants.
Sir Stirling Moss, the British racecar driver who competed from 1948 to 1962 and won 212 of the 529 races he entered, including 16 Formula One Grand Prixs, will serve as the patron fo the event. He attended the original Bahamas Speed Week more than 50 years ago.
Running from 1954 to 1966, the original, historic event in Nassau featured many of the great racing drivers and best automobiles of the period.
In this year's revival, a series of events are expected to take place throughout Bahamas Speed Week - including a sprint at Arawak Cay, a hill climb at Fort Charlotte and a star-studded exhibition for the vintage vehicles.
But for Earle Bethell, the President of the Cancer Society, the gala banquet and Auction of Promises will be the marquee event.
"Because of the prevalence of cancer in this country, we are most thankful for these sponsors to come forward," he said.
"We [The Cancer Society] just added another six branches through the Family Islands and we're putting in education offices, trying to reach out to the Family Islands. In Nassau, the Cancer Center is full and we have a waiting list.
"We need every penny we can get - these are very trying times."
Ranfurly Home for Children, Teen Challenge and the AIDS Foundation are the other charities that will benefit from the Auction of Promises.
In a teaser to Guardian Business, Lowe hinted that some of the big-ticket prizes are already on the books, such as a four-day, three-night stay in Exuma valued at $30,000 and a private charter on a high-end fishing boat.
In addition to the money raised for charity, Bethell, who is also the Director of Marketing for Baha Mar, said Bahamas Speed Week, and the possible expansion to include a racetrack, will be incredibly important for all Bahamians.
"With the amount of persons coming in, of course it will have an impact," he said.
"They are resurrecting it for the first time, in a long time. That means a lot more heads for hotel rooms."
Bahamians will have a new Bay Street straw market that is 20 percent the size of what makes sense for current and future usage, but costs $5 million more than what was budgeted for by the Christie administration, former Minister of Works and current Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) chairman Bradley Roberts has claimed.
Roberts said this will include $16 million in construction costs and $11.2 million in "stop, review and cancel compensation fees".
He made the remarks during the opening of the PLP's Job Creation and Empowerment Summit at Workers House on Tonique Williams-Darling Highway on Wednesday night.
Within weeks of coming to office in 2007, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham announced in the House of Assembly that his administration was canceling the straw market contract the Christie administration entered into earlier that year with Woslee Construction Company.
This meant that all the professionals involved in the contract had the rug pulled from under them.
The government has never detailed the financial loss to the public as a result.
But Roberts said the cancellation resulted in a loss of the $2.3 million construction deposit; loss of fees due to the termination and hiring of new architects, engineers, quantity surveyors and a general contractor; and additional legal costs for attorneys or arbitrators in respect of a recent judgment against the government.
The Nassau Guardian recently reported that an arbitrator has determined that the Ingraham administration was in breach when it canceled the contract.
As a result, retired Supreme Court Justice Jeanne Thompson determined that the government must pay damages to Arconcepts Ltd., the architect and lead consultant for the contract.
The government must also pay damages to the sub-consultants -- George Cox and Associates, the project's structural engineers and Pyramid Industries, the mechanical contractor.
"Who here thinks that Bahamians just have money to throw out like that? Who here believes that Bahamians deserve better, deserve a government ready to invest in them instead of throwing money out for political reasons? They didn't do right by the straw vendors. They didn't do right by the Bahamian people. They just looked after themselves."
Roberts said the government "which has presided over massive job losses has to tell 190 vendors that they cannot be accommodated in the new market".
As minister of works, Roberts was intimately involved in negotiations for the contract signed under the Christie-led government.
He noted that the PLP administration executed a contract to build a 165,000 square foot market for $22 million, including a Bahamas Electricity Corporation electrical infrastructure upgrade, accommodating 630 vendors in stalls no less than 48 square feet in size.
The cost of the construction was then estimated at $133 per square foot, Roberts said.
"It was a good design at a good price," he said.
"The FNM's response? They cancelled it. They couldn't let the PLP take credit, after all. Remember, they always put politics first, they never put Bahamians first."
He said the Free National Movement government executed a new contract to construct a 37,000 square foot market tendered at a cost of $11.2 million, excluding BEC electrical infrastructure upgrades.
"The cost of this project, now in the final stages of completion, has been revised upward to $16 million," Roberts said.
"Instead of accommodating 630 craft vendors it can only accommodate 440 vendors. Instead of stall sizes of 48 square feet, the stalls are only 12 square feet.
"The adjusted cost of construction for this mini-facility, which makes no allowances for growth or variety, has been estimated at $432 per square foot -- $301 more per square foot than that contractually agreed under the PLP government."
He said the PLP's proposed straw market was a four-story structure with the rooftop fourth level dedicated to other income generating amenities, such as restaurants, entertainment facilities and a 100-foot tall panoramic observation tower. It had scope for expansion and further variety and would have cost taxpayers $133 per square feet, Roberts repeated.
In contrast, the newly constructed market is approximately 2.5 stories, with one floor designated to accommodate vendors and no room for growth or expansion, according to Roberts.
All things factored in, the estimated overall development cost for this market is $27 million or $730 per square feet, he said.
"You don't need me to do the math - you're paying a lot more for a lot less," Roberts said.
After canceling the straw market contract, the Ingraham government signed a contract with Cavalier Construction for a new market, which replaces the market destroyed by fire in September 2001.
GREGORY TOWN, Eleuthera - A new $30 million, 50-room resort in North Eleuthera is expected to employ close to 200 Bahamians once its doors re-open in November.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Perry Christie toured the site of the 35-acre Cove Eleuthera Resort.
Christie told Guardian Business that the development is a testament that investors are once again becoming confident in The Bahamas. The current site has been in existence since 1969 and undergone several changes in ownership.
However, the prime minister believes the new owner behind the Cove Eleuthera Resort will generate just the kind of turnaround that the North Eleuthera community needs to boost its economy.
"I have been involved with people who have bought and sold this property many times, never making it a success. And I would come here and sit with them. We cannot have an investor come into this part of Eleuthera where there is no other such investment and fail. We must give him the support that he needs and pay attention to what is going on here," according to Christie.
"If he succeeds, then perhaps he will do another on this island or on another one. But, he's young, aggressive and smart. He has all the funding he needs to do even more."
Christie said the key to ensuring the resort's success now lies in the marketing strategies led by the Ministry of Tourism and the resort.
The resort's owner, Sidney Torres IV, confirmed to Guardian Business that work began on the development in March, just one month after the contract was signed.
To date, Torres said that more than $3 million has been invested in the project. Approximately 150 Bahamians have found employment in construction.
In addition to its 50 guest rooms and suites, 33 two-bedroom home sites are expected to be built. At the soft opening in November, three of these homes should be completed, along with the 50-room resort.
"We have already broken ground and we are about $3 million into it. We are employing about 150 Bahamians through all different settlements, and not just Gregory Town. When the hotel is open, there will be food and beverage, housekeeping and other positions available. This is a project that is going to go on for a few years," he explained.
"We will have 50 new cottages upon opening. We will also be building 33 home sites. Three of them have already started and will be completed in November. We are very excited about this project because I have a lot of history on the island. I was introduced to the island through Lenny Kravitz."
The 26-new garden and beachfront guest suites will complement the existing 24 rooms.
Renovations include an Infinity pool and full-service Bahamian restaurant. The sunset bar located on the point of The Cove will overlook the water, and a cocktail bar will include a fire-pit and lounge area.
A new Bahama Bean coffee shop will also feature on-site, freshly roasted coffee, lattes and cappuccinos. A fitness and business will be added.
Torres, a New Orleans entrepreneur and French Quarter hotelier, has been in the hotel business since 1996. He pointed out that he loves Eleuthera because of its similarities in cultures to his hometown, New Orleans.
"Eleuthera is a magical island and our goal is to bring the same legendary hospitality, food and décor of the New Orleans French Quarter to the Bahamas. We're very excited to welcome guests back to the breathtaking secluded, pink sand beaches of The Cove at Eleuthera."
Financing for the 33 homes is also available through Torres's IV Capital Investments.
A mixture of optimism and an expectation of challenging and uncertain circumstances to come characterize the views of a number of leading figures in Guardian Business' round up of opinions on what 2014 has to hold for The Bahamas in terms of growth, unemployment levels, government policy initiatives and the outlook for a variety of key sectors.
Here James Smith, former central bank governor and chairman of Colina Financial Advisors Limited (CFAL); George Markantonis, president and managing director of Atlantis Resort; Anthony Ferguson, president of CFAL; Aliya Allen, chief executive officer and executive director of the Bahamas Financial Services Board; Franon Wilson, president of the Bahamas Real Estate Association; and a top banker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, offer their views on what The Bahamas can expect in 2014.
James Smith said he expects The Bahamas to experience "some modest economic growth in 2014, but at an insufficiently high level to produce any dramatic change in the unemployment rate".
"The Bahamas is still emerging slowly from the deep recession which began in 2008 and was marked by negative GDP growth rates for most of the period, accompanied by high unemployment rates; more than doubling from 7.5 percent at the end of 2007 to a little over 16 percent currently," he said.
"Given the unflattering macroeconomic statistics of 2013, any positive trends for 2014 are likely to be at best 'modest' since we would be projecting from an already low base."
"Our major economic sector, tourism, is likely to continue to face headwinds in 2014 because our major market, the USA, projected GDP growth and lower unemployment levels are unlikely to be sufficient to dramatically alter the fall-off in tourist expenditure, total room revenue and average occupancy rates experienced in The Bahamas over the last three quarters of 2013," Smith said. "There is likely to be an improvement in employment levels in the tourist sector as a result of accelerated job additions to meet the December 2014 deadline of the Baha Mar project."
On the financial sector
"The second largest economic sector, financial services, continues to operate under the stressful conditions induced by international regulators' demands for increased capitalization, which in turn has led to some downsizing in the local market in order to preserve profit levels or to avoid stringent regulatory oversight," he said.
"The continued losses of high-end jobs in the financial services sector would compress overall demand for goods and services locally and present a challenge to economic growth throughout 2014."
"Our third largest sector, construction, which accounts for about 10 percent of GDP but also has the highest proportion of value-added contribution to GDP, is expected to continue to perform poorly as a result of the fall-off in demand for new construction and the restraint on new mortgage loans in the banking sector, which continues to be plagued with abnormally high loan arrears portfolios of over $1.2 billion at the end of the third quarter in 2013," he said.
"The moderation in consumer prices as a result of declining oil prices is likely to be tempered somewhat with the planned introduction of a new consumer-based tax during the second quarter of 2014.
On foreign direct investment
"Plans in the pipeline for some major and minor FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) projects in the tourism sector could have a positive impact on economic growth and employment levels if they materialize over the next several months," Smith said.
"However, there is likely to be a continued drag on the economy; one that cannot be adequately addressed by increased government spending at a time when a growing public sector debt issue is being closely monitored by both local and international lenders."
George Markantonis, president and managing director of the Atlantis Paradise Island Resort, the country's largest private sector employer, said he is very optimistic about 2014 based on the pace of bookings the resort is seeing for the new year.
"Only February seems somewhat weak in the first four months and we are taking steps to try and correct that," he said. "We believe that the improving American economy, the stable U.S. housing market and the climbing Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) are all creating more consumer confidence in the U.S. which realistically provides us with 85 percent of our annual business.
"A bright spot on the horizon is our group booking pace continuing to grow, while a dark spot is the declining airlift coming into the country. December numbers released (last week) show year-on-year decline in seats of eight percent, mostly due to reduced December service of American from Dallas and Jet blue from Ft. Lauderdale."
New trends in tourism that The Bahamian tourism sector will need to consider in 2014:
"New gaming licenses are being approved across the United States which will continue to add competition for our casinos," he said. "In addition cruise lines are continuing to add non-traditional attractions to their new mega-ships thereby directly competing with land-based mega-resorts, that is water slides, celebrity chef restaurants etc, etc."
Major policy steps the government could take to impact the tourism sector in 2014:
"We are very pleased that government is reviewing the gaming regulations of course but hope that there will be some significant steps taken to reduce utility costs across the sector, and to minimize the addition of more fees to business which will have to be passed on to the consumer and may impact the value perception of the destination," he said.
Anthony Ferguson said he expects a "challenging" 2014.
"I think 2014 will be a challenging one for The Bahamas as the U.S. slows in the first half coupled with the implementation of value-added tax (VAT) which would cause businesses to delay any hiring and expansion decisions," he said. "This will be countered by Baha Mar as they look to hire and train for the December opening. However 5,000 kids graduating from school in 2014 will negate Baha Mar hiring."
On unemployment levels
"I don't think we can really reduce unemployment in 2014 as the Baha Mar hiring will be offset by the 5,000 school graduates," Ferguson said. "To rescue employment the government needs to balance new taxes against incentives for businesses to consider expanding their business."
On policy initiatives which could stimulate the private sector:
"The government should reduce the red tape, allow economic passports, revisit immigration policy," he said.
"It's mind blowing that the Department of Labour are directing businesses who to interview and hire. It's also socialist. And if they sent qualified people you be grateful!
"The government needs to reshuffle the Cabinet and implement an economic planning ministry to develop a 20 year strategy for Bahamas Inc. Unless we do this we are headed in the direction of the rest of the Caribbean."
Aliya Allen, CEO and executive director of the BFSB, said she is upbeat about the potential for 2014 to generate more opportunity and greater returns for the financial services sector.
"Generally, we see a number of bright spots for financial services, as a result of the initiatives we have undertaken in recent and past years," she said.
"These include ongoing developments in the captive insurance and funds sectors, as well as continuing to solidify our position as a leader in wealth management."
Major trends or changes that The Bahamas will have to adapt to in 2014:
"The cost of compliance will continue to be a challenge, with initiatives like FATCA, for example. Indeed, I would add to that the cost of compliance with VAT, even for firms that benefit from zero rating but wish to reclaim inputs," she said.
Significant policy steps the government could take to positively impact the financial sector:
"The government has demonstrated a historic commitment to the financial community," Allen said.
"If this commitment could be expanded to include additional resources we could truly be first in class in business, both local and international. That extends to setting and monitoring turn around times in all effective business processes and departments such as the Department of Immigration, the Registrar Generals Department, and the Bahamas Investment Authority."
Franon Wilson, president of Arawak Homes and the Bahamas Real Estate Association, said he too is optimistic about what the new year holds for the economy.
"I am optimistic in large part because of Baha Mar, and in that regard even though the hotel will not open during the course of this year they'll probably be hiring a lot of people and that will be a big jolt in our economy," he said.
"I do think the levels will come down. I don't think it's going to happen overnight and go back to 2005 or 2006 levels, but I do think now it is moving slowly in that direction and that will give a boost. We won't be in the clear but we'll be moving in the right direction."
On policy initiatives that could stimulate the private sector:
"At the end of the day certainty is key and I accept the country's financial position is in a state where we need some type of reform to help the government to move forward and maintain the standard we have right now, whether it's VAT or a blend of VAT and something else; whatever it is, I'm looking forward to getting that process done so we can move forward. We need to deal with it and move forward."
A leading banker, who offered his views on condition of anonymity, told Guardian Business he fears The Bahamas will "let a good crisis go to waste" in 2014.
"Rahm Emanuel, the former Chief of Staff for [U.S. President Barack] Obama said something along the lines of 'You never let a serious crisis go to waste,'" he said.
"I find that quote a very appropriate place to start as I reflect on where The Bahamas finds itself financially today.
"The Bahamas economy has suffered a body blow since the financial crisis erupted in the developed world in 2007. While the U.S. seems to be emerging from this crisis, albeit painfully slowly, we have yet to see the Bahamian economy back to pre-crisis levels. Unemployment in The Bahamas remains stubbornly high and loan delinquencies have soared. With the economy in the doldrums, government revenue has plummeted but the expense base has not changed materially. The net effect of this development has been that the budget deficit has widened and the debt to GDP ratio is in the danger zone. The government is taking steps to address the problem of the lack of revenue, through the proposed introduction of VAT. Based on public pronouncements of the business community, the government's proposal has gone down like a lead balloon with loud voices suggesting dire events if VAT is introduced."
The economic outlook in the short and medium term:
"The short-term (one to two years) does not look particularly good," he said.
"The introduction of VAT in 2014 will likely tip the struggling Bahamian consumer over the edge and exacerbate their already difficult existence. Delinquencies are likely to worsen as living standards erode. Discretionary spending funds will reduce and related consumption will decline hurting the already struggling Bahamian private sector. The Bahamian consumer accounts for a considerable percentage of the Bahamian GDP and lower consumption will hurt Bahamian economic recovery and tax revenues. The devil is in the details and the public cannot see the execution of VAT meeting the GOB revenue expectations simply because Bahamians do not have a culture for paying taxes as is evident with the $500MM in delinquent property taxes. The informal sector and cash basis society will blossom and leach the tax revenue GOB is relying on.
"The medium term (three to five years) perspective is more positive as global economies in general, and the U.S. in particular, are showing greater robustness in their economic recovery, which should hopefully translate to more tourism traffic for The Bahamas. The U.S. is particularly important to The Bahamas as more than 90 percent of our tourist traffic and related revenues come from there and signs that U.S. consumers are more willing to spend and charge up their credit cards auger well for the Bahamian economy. Coupled with the opening of Baha Mar in late 2014, I see a resurgence in the domestic economy and employment levels in 2016."
Fiscal reform in 2014 - stuck between 'a rock and a hard place'
"It appears that the government knows all the VAT related pitfalls but it finds itself between a rock and a hard place," he said.
"It needs to plug the fiscal deficit and control the growing debt to GDP ratio. The introduction of measures to reduce the deficit cannot fail as the alternatives are much worse. Barbados has already announced a reduction in civil servant levels by 3,000 to avoid going to the IMF for a bail out and Jamaica has defaulted twice. Both face many years of painful adjustments that cannot be good for their people.
"The mandarins from the IMF have persuaded it that the same medicine of VAT that has been applied with modest success elsewhere would work here, notwithstanding the tax avoidance and downright tax evasion culture that is pervasive in The Bahamas. VAT is simply a revenue generating tool that government is presently promoting - there may be other options that may be more targeted and have a greater chance of success with lower leakages and collection costs. The government is hopefully exploring all options including a phased introduction of VAT with lower starting rates. But any form of taxation will have the same impact on lowering consumer spending.
"But reducing the deficit requires not only an increase in revenue but also a reduction in expenses - from the bloated civil service to the inefficient government corporations. No administration historically has wanted to touch these sacred cows and regrettably, the time has now come where the country cannot simply ignore the vast government bureaucracy and the amounts that are used to subsidize the corporations.
"Instead of taking the opportunity to reset the public's expectations, the government is maintaining that everything will be fine soon and unemployment is dropping and economic recovery is in sight. No serious effort is being made to sit costs or wastage. We are, yet again, letting a serious crisis go to waste."
When you look around New Providence today, what do you see? When you think of our institutions, what do they offer? What does The Bahamas look like now? Are we only sun, sand and sea or are we promise, potential, and possibilities? I think the latter.
Some Bahamians look around in New Providence through impatient eyes and see mounds and mounds of dirt, debris and open trenches. They see workmen and equipment digging, placing pipes and paving the roads on many of our major thoroughfares. I, however, look not at the present state but the future. I see the infrastructural improvements in fiber optic cabling, underground utilities for water and power. I see what the roadwork will offer, what it will change and what it will impact.
By ALISON LOWE
Bahamian restaurant, bar and hospitality stakeholders should capitalise on global trends in food and beverages to increase visitor and local customer traffic/revenue, an international gastronomy and beverage consultant said yesterday.
Josué Merced-Reyes, president of InterEmarketing, a food, wine and beverage consulting firm, specialising in the Caribbean and Latin American hospitality industry, provided this advice as he gave insights into the current biggest "driving forces" behind consumers' choice of dinners, desserts and cocktails.
He urged Bahamian stakeholders - including chefs, restauranteurs, hotel food ...
The construction of Mahogany Hill, a high-end boutique hotel set for western New Providence, is nearly 25 percent complete and is "on schedule", with around 100 people expected to be employed at the site by early 2014.
Since breaking ground on the $30 million development in August, its Project Manager Lauren Holowesko said work on Mahogany Hill is "progressing quite well".
"We have all of the plumbing in. So at the beginning of the year, we will probably be capping off the second floor of the guest room buildings and will be progressing quite nicely with the main hotel structure. We have the lower ground floor foundations and walls completed and we're looking to start on the lobby level probably in February of next year," Holowesko said.
"We're still looking at a final handover from the construction company at the beginning of December. So at the moment, we're on the second floor of the east and west guest rooms. And those are progressing quite well.
"We have between 80-100 people on-site at the moment and that will progress into the new year and the coming months as we need more craftsman and plumbers.
"We're at about 78 now and that will increase to about 100 in early 2014 as we begin to do more finish work."
To date, approximately $6 million has been poured into the project.
Holowesko said most of the site will be finalized by August 2014 and the interior finishes should "hopefully" be completed by December.
"We're ordering all of the plumbing fixtures and floor finishes," she said to Guardian Business.
The 33-room boutique hotel will include a spa, pool, a small theater and a restaurant, and is an expansion of the popular Mahogany House restaurant, located in Lyford Cay.
Once the hotel is open, a 40-plus staff complement will be hired.
Holowesko sees Mahogany Hill as a great investment, bringing a great sense of community for all of the nearby developments.
"I think it's going to be a great platform. We see the surrounding communities having access to this place, whether it's going out to buy a movie ticket or coming to the Movement Studio, which will have classes that you can sign up for online. We see it as a great local center where if you wanted to have a quick coffee and a meeting, it's the perfect place to go," she said.
"We're really excited for the ambiance that it will create for this area because it's growing so quickly and generating a buzz. I think it will create a great sense of community for all of the developments in the area."
Both Prime Minister Perry Christie and Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe, who were on hand for the brief groundbreaking ceremony, applauded Holowesko's efforts not only for being one of few Bahamians that have invested heavily in the country's hotel industry in recent years, but the fact that it has provided new tourism offering for guests visiting Bahamian shores.
"Much like his restaurant, the hotel will be a fine example to other Bahamians of what can happen when you invest in your country. You can provide much-needed jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities for fellow Bahamians," Christie said.
"It adds to the diversity of the tourism product. The truth is, this is going to be very significant not only because of its size but where it is located and the fact that it is a part of the environment," Wilchcombe echoed.
"It's a unique concept that I believe will catch on. I think the property is going to be significant to the growth and development of the tourism industry. Plus, it adds rooms because we do have a problem with inventory. To be able to offer this inventory, a high-end boutique hotel, is very significant."
A 15-minute video on the impact Value Added Tax (VAT) has had on the twin-island state of St. Kitts & Nevis has been making the social media rounds in recent weeks, posted and re-posted by many Bahamians linked in the online community.
The video, moderated by Rev. Conrad Howell of the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), was created ahead of what had been the planned April 1, 2013 implementation of VAT in TCI.
The video features a number of prominent citizens of St. Kitts & Nevis, including business leaders, former Minister of Finance Richard Caines, and also everyday citizens outlining the "negative" impacts VAT has had on their economy since its implementation three years ago.
Business leaders speak of having to close their businesses, of the sharp and sudden rise in the cost of living. Other citizens speak of the stunning decline in their quality of life.
Such reports have increased fears among an already worried Bahamian population preparing for the introduction of VAT at a rate of 15 percent on July 1, 2014.
In the absence of information on the likely impact of VAT on their way of life, and on their economy, many Bahamians view this video as a model of things to come, notwithstanding recent reports from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that St. Kitts & Nevis is seeing signs of an economic recovery.
Calvin Cable, executive director of the St. Kitts & Nevis Chamber of Industry and Commerce, told National Review that VAT had a "multiplier effect in terms of hardships on the populace".
Cable said a consumption tax was removed and the VAT of 17 percent was introduced.
Two other taxes, the customs duty and the customs service charge, were retained in addition to the 17 percent VAT, he explained.
"It was tremendous on the cost of living," Cable said. "You could have felt it in the number of packages being taken out by householders out of the supermarkets because the prices of goods went up pretty high, maybe about 25 percent overnight."
As a result of VAT, many people in St. Kitts & Nevis cut back significantly, he said; many of them eliminated all luxuries.
"People stopped going out to restaurants to eat and that sort of thing because it was proving to be too much to carry," he said.
VAT is viewed by governments as an attractive option as it taxes both goods and services.
The current narrow based tax system in The Bahamas has long been in need of an overhaul, according to government officials and various international agencies examining The Bahamas' tax structure.
Cable also noted that prior to the implementation of VAT, there were very few charges or taxes on services in St. Kitts & Nevis.
"And so, what the population had to deal with now was that services were being charged VAT, which was not the custom before," he said.
"For instance, doctors fees, lawyers fees, services in the tourism sector -- and I know The Bahamas is big on tourism. For instance, rented cars had to pay the 17 percent."
Cable said VAT provided a "windfall" for the government in taking from the services sector, "but most of that was coming out of the local population".
"So the amount of disposable income that they had on their side was drastically reduced and the buying power was drastically diminished," he said.
In St. Kitts & Nevis, VAT is credited with bolstering the government's fiscal position, but Cable said it happened "on the backs of the local people".
Prior to the implementation of VAT, the country experienced debt levels above 200 percent, which made it one of the world's most indebted countries.
The debt to GDP ratio is now inching closer to the 100 percent mark.
St. Kitts and Nevis' Minister of Information Nigel Carty previously pointed to the "herculean effort that has been exerted to bring great relief to the country's fiscal position at such an economically challenging time".
While The Bahamas' debt situation has not been as dire as that of St. Kitts & Nevis, it has reached a position where it is now unsustainable.
The Bahamas government has outlined its own efforts to bring relief to this country's fiscal position.
As we noted in this space last week, government debt as at June 30, 2014 is projected to be $4.9 billion, compared to $2.4 billion as at July 2007.
Over the last two fiscal years, the government has seen a total deficit in excess of $500 million.
Almost one out of every four dollars in revenue collected by the government must be allocated to pay the interest charges on the public debt and cover the debt repayment.
With a significant change in the country's tax system on the horizon, The Bahamas government has not yet produced any studies to show the likely impact VAT will have on the cost of living.
In every sector, there are understandably questions about how this new regime will affect business.
The man and woman on the street are equally concerned, as they already exist in a climate of high unemployment, where many are finding it hard to meet their obligations and disposable spending has been stretched to the limit.
The government is now asking citizens to shoulder the burden of reversing a burdensome debt situation.
Again, there is no doubting that it is time for action. The chosen route is of course value added tax, which the government says is a central element of its tax reform strategy.
A new IMF report "Tax Reforms for Increased Buoyancy", which was prepared for the government, notes that The Bahamas has low taxes compared to the rest of the world, excluding Central American countries.
It points out that many countries in the region have already introduced VAT, thus providing "a stable source of tax revenues".
The report notes further that almost all the countries in the region have taxes on income and profits. Furthermore, they have high excises on petroleum products.
While The Bahamas is only now moving in the direction of VAT, several of its Caribbean neighbors -- among them, Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago -- implemented VAT more than a decade ago.
Speaking of the Barbados experience, Lalu Vaswani, president of the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry, described VAT as a "very efficient means of collecting tax as it increases the base on which the taxes can be collected".
"I think it has been a positive impact, although it was not without its challenges," Vaswani said in an interview with National Review.
Vaswani said that prior to the implementation of VAT in Barbados in 1997, the country had as many as 11 different types of duties or imposts that could be charged on imports.
"The increased effectiveness of collecting revenue gave the government more scope to do their development projects," Vaswani said.
"From a business perspective, there are always anxieties associated with changes, and it is always desirable that there is a maximum amount of consultations even when the final positions are not known.
"So there is an understanding from ground level what are the goals, specific objectives and how you propose to do it because very often what you theoretically are trying to do may have a unique challenge, which may be identified before it is implemented and resolved and prevented."
Former Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur noted in a 2010 interview with Erasmus Williams, press secretary to the prime minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, that high debt levels are inevitable in the absence of a tax base to generate the revenue needed to run a country.
"I supported the VAT when I was in opposition in Barbados because I thought it stood the test of reasonableness, but it was absolutely necessary," said Arthur, whose administration introduced VAT.
"You're living in a set of countries where year by year, period by period, governments will have to remove import duties. What are you going to replace them with? And that is the basic question."
Arthur said VAT created the basis for sustained growth "without fiscal difficulties".
"It allowed us to be able to introduce programs to aggressively mount and sustain policies to eradicate poverty and we did that by creating the base for sustainable growth in the country," he said.
The most recent Caribbean country to implement VAT was St. Lucia, which did so just over a year ago at a rate of 15 percent.
Gerard Bergasse, president of the St. Lucia Chamber of Commerce, Industry & Agriculture, noted that VAT pulls more people into the tax net.
"When you are relying on other forms of taxation, they are not as broad based, so you have a much narrower tax base, which means that the tax on those people has to be higher to achieve your revenue targets," Bergasse told National Review.
"But when you have a broad based tax like VAT, it means that everybody is contributing, so it makes it fairer. And it does not take the fiscal tool out of government's hands because they can still zero rate items, or zero rate a basket of goods that they feel would help less advantaged people."
The Bahamas government's White Paper on Tax Reform notes that zero-rating a supply implies applying a zero VAT rate and allowing credits for VAT paid on inputs.
It says that zero-rating should definitely be applied to exports as a VAT is designed to tax only domestic consumption. Other than that, zero-rating should be strictly limited, if utilized at all, the document says.
Bergasse said that based on anecdotal evidence, many people would say that VAT was a necessary evil in St. Lucia.
"I still believe that VAT was the right thing for the government to have done and it's moving in the right direction," Bergasse said.
He said while the government is not now experiencing a huge windfall, as far as he is aware its revenue targets have been met.
Bergasse said the Chamber of Commerce supported the implementation of VAT from the beginning and was a part of the government's pre-implementation VAT team.
Bergasse pointed to the need for proper consultations ahead of the implementation of VAT.
But he recognized that making VAT understandable to a cross-section of people is "very difficult".
"I will warrant that there are still business people in St. Lucia who still do not understand VAT," Bergasse said.
"...It is a bit of a complicated tax, so it does take people a while to wrap their heads around it and it does make a difference the way your legislation is structured. We didn't get the legislation until very late in the day and even after we got the legislation there are the regulations that go along with it that are very important, because the legislation is the 'what'; the regulations are the 'how'."
He noted that the fundamental change created by VAT is that the business community is changed from being solely taxpayers to being tax collectors.
When properly structured, VAT is a tax on consumption, not business.
In The Bahamas, the proposed VAT legislation and regulations have not yet been released to the public, so the specifics are still unknown.
The government, meanwhile, is planning on increasing public education and awareness in a series of meetings set to begin this week.
Prime Minister Perry Christie has said the July 1 implementation date is not set in stone and he, as minister of finance, needs to be satisfied that businesses and the country at large are ready for the implementation of VAT.
As the government prepares to intensify public education on VAT, it is hoping to quiet what appears to be growing public sentiment against VAT.
"Lies, damned lies and statistics" is how Mark Twain popularized a refrain sometimes attributed to a variety of British pundits and politicians when forced to address opponents using statistics to bolster their position.
Just a few weeks ago, the Department of Statistics released the annual unemployment report reflecting a dramatic increase of two percent in unemployment. Immediately, government ministers became "spin doctors" issuing silver lining statements as rings around the ominous dark cloud portrayed by the latest labor force survey. The increase in unemployment should not be of concern, we are being told because it does not truly reflect a loss in jobs in the economy; rather, it is claimed, it reflects an increase in the number of previously discouraged workers who have rejoined the labor market because they are now hopeful of finding employment, and they have swelled the numbers of the unemployed.
But this is "spin". It does not reflect the facts. There has been a loss of jobs in the economy. Between May 2012 and May 2013 the number of persons employed decreased by 1,260. Furthermore, there was an increase in the rate of unemployment as 3,455 new entrants came to the job market while the number of employed persons was falling by 1260.
Trying to find a silver lining
Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance Michael Halkitis was first out of the gate with that fanciful story. He was soon followed by Minister for Grand Bahama Michael Darville, who advised that employment had increased at the Freeport Container Port since May of this year. And he claimed to be hopeful that the employment numbers would be up in Grand Bahama before the next survey, as a number of new small businesses had opened on that island.
Then, the prime minister joined the chorus expressing hope that by next year the "economy will begin to shift in our favor..." This was followed with the live radio coverage of the signing of a heads of agreement that would see the construction of a number of condo-hotel units in collaboration with Club Med in San Salvador.
These PLP ministers remind me of the propaganda spun by a Jamaican prime minister in the 1970s when he told his party faithful to ignore criticisms about the "devaluation" of the Jamaican dollar against the U.S. dollar. He told them what had happened was that the Jamaican dollar had not been "devalued"; it had been "revalued". And the people cheered. Just like Bahamians cheered when then Minister of Finance Carlton Francis announced at a PLP convention that following years of a balanced budget under a socially deficient UBP government, The Bahamas under the PLP would have a deficit budget for the first time. Today of course, Jamaicans no longer cheer at the thought of their severely devalued currency, and Bahamians shudder with the thought of the long-term consequences of a growing national debt.
The reality of the Bahamian economy
We have come through a terrible economic period; an economic and financial crisis which sent the entire global economy into collapse and recession, even if the PLP in opposition refused to acknowledge it. The fallout from the Great Global Recession caused the Bahamian economy to lose more than 17,000 jobs between 2008 and 2009; the number of employed persons fell from 174,920 in 2008 to 157,805 in 2009. Those 17,000-plus jobs lost in the Great Recession have not returned.
In times of international and national economic and financial crisis, it is left to the government to seek to adopt policies and programs to stimulate economic activity in the private sector so as to sustain as many jobs as possible and to maintain to the extent possible employment in the public sector.
Thousands of jobs were created in the private sector between 2009 and 2012 through infrastructural projects undertaken by the FNM government. These were supplemented by additional real jobs created through the jump start and self-starter programs and through the national jobs and skills training 52-week program, which put qualified and capable young Bahamians into positions to begin to earn honest incomes to support their families.
Such infrastructural and skills training policies are exactly the kinds of policies that the international financial organizations and the international ratings agencies recommend governments adopt during difficult economic times. One wonders whether the PLP government understands the value of the millions of dollars spent by contractors and their workers in the Bahamian economy with Bahamian construction suppliers, food stores, utility corporations, restaurants, lenders, motor vehicle dealerships, etc.
These various and legitimate programs undertaken by the last FNM government helped to sustain and create jobs in our all-important construction and services sectors during tough economic times.
The Department of Statistics reports for the years 2008-2012 indicate that the economy had begun a slow recovery by 2009. By May 2011, some 2,380 new jobs had been added to the economy. In the last year of the FNM government from May 2011 to May 2012, an additional 5,070 new jobs were created. This gradual recovery came as a direct result of government policies.
Tourism is the engine of the Bahamian economy; and tourism is in serious trouble. Small wonder then that the economy is performing poorly and the number of the unemployed is increasing.
A senior tourism executive was recently quoted in the media commenting on declining air service to The Bahamas. The official admitted to "a loss of over 50,000 seats" for 2013. We know that the loss is nearer to 70,000 seats, which is more than any other destination in our region in terms of both absolute and percentage loss of air seats. This significant loss of air seats also explains why The Bahamas is performing poorly in terms of the lucrative stopover visitor segment.
We have experienced more than a seven percent year-over-year decline in stopover visitors as compared with competing destinations in our region. Unlike The Bahamas, most countries are recovering from the effects of the Great Recession and recording positive stopover growth.
With tourism, our most important economic sector performing so abysmally, it is not surprising that we are now experiencing the highest level of unemployment in 35 years. According to the Ministry of Tourism, each air arrival represents more than $1,300 per person in expenditure in the Bahamian economy. The loss of 70,000 seats represents a loss of more than $100 million in visitor expenditure.
When the FNM administration left office in May 2012, air arrivals were growing at more than 11 percent, which was equal to the best performing start of any year for foreign air arrivals in recorded tourism history. Tourism, which accounts for more than 60 percent of our GDP, is such an important driver of our economy that a fall-off in air arrivals and stopover visitors of that magnitude easily explains the current state of our economy. The treasury of The Bahamas will lose millions of dollars in departure taxes, room taxes and import duties alone. Under these circumstances, businesses will continue to close, no businesses will hire additional staff and existing workers will suffer through prolonged periods of two- and three-day work weeks throughout the industry.
While the overall performance of The Bahamas is the worst in the region, Grand Bahama in particular has recorded a jaw dropping 17.4 percent decline in air arrivals so far this year, according to the latest information from the Ministry of Tourism. To make matters worse, even the cruise business is down in Grand Bahama.
It has been stated publicly on several occasions that we will need an additional 300,000 air seats annually in order to satisfy the needs of Baha Mar. With the loss of 70,000 air seats so far this year, that required number has now increased by 23 percent to 370,000 or an average of roughly 1,000 additional air seats needed per day.
Name: Ron Johnson
Position: Culinary artist, Savory Art Culinary & Consultation Service
Guardian Business: Can you briefly describe your experience in the tourism sector and what your role is today?
Ron: I've been a part of the hospitality industry since the age of 16. I was an apprentice chef at the Atlantis Resort & Casino and eventually left my post for educational pursuits. However, during my tenure at the property, I've always felt a strong sense of pride and responsibility ensuring guest satisfaction, simultaneously pleasing my superiors. Whether local or international cuisine was requested, working independently or with a team, contentment was the primary goal. It should be noted that in most areas of people activity, food is involved either in overt or subtle ways.
After attaining my formal educational goals, I've currently been active as a personal/private chef for celebrities, affluent individuals and occasionally working aboard yachts (seven in total thus far), cruising to the Exuma Cays and sometimes Harbour Island, showcasing elements of island flare and other cuisines to the best of my ability. At 31, I would see myself as a culinary ambassador of sorts, particularly to those unfamiliar with tropical cuisine.
GB: Why did you choose to work in tourism as a career?
Ron: At first, the career chose me, along with my mother's stern guidance and foresight. After graduation from high school, I had no idea of what path I would take. I felt idle, without purpose and eager to make a quick buck. I enrolled at The Bahamas Hotel Training College (now called School of Hospitality Training Studies) and found myself performing fairly well, particularly out of fear and love. The fears of letting anybody think I was inadequate were intertwined with my affinity for the profession.
I eventually simmered down and found it was something that I could handle fairly well. It allowed me to be creative with my hands, only limited to what my mind could conceive. A friend told me that certain African tribes believed that your spirit/vibe was transferred into your food creations. I would hope people get an overwhelming sense of love and commitment when they taste what I create.
GB: What has been your most memorable moment?
Ron: Most experiences I've had thus far have their own merit in my life. One in particular, as Montell Williams personal chef aboard a three-week yacht trip throughout the Exuma Cays, still permeates in my memory. Although I've had the pleasure of cooking for him a few times prior to the most recent trip, we had a chance to really have in depth discussions about my future in general and I got to interact on a higher level with his family and staff; they were truly appreciative of what I fed them and the level of professionalism I maintained. Beware of getting too 'familiar' with a guest or client by the way.
Notwithstanding, they were appreciative to the point that they questioned and hesitated dining out on other yachts they got invited on or local restaurants because the precedent I set made them compare my performance; they said it was better than others. The reassuring moment came when he complimented my mother about my professionalism and gave me a hefty 'thank you' gift that made me smile from ear to ear; he personally gave me his contact information as well.
GB: Has the industry changed since you started your career? How?
Ron: Where to begin? I'm a bit at a disadvantage properly responding to this, as my personalized service isolates me to a degree. However, I converse with colleagues and make observations as well. On a side note, the common misperception is that when one sees a chef jacket of sorts, they automatically assume you are employed at a hotel. There are other atypical, unconventional places chefs work at such as stand-alone restaurants and chocolate factories, as well as in positions as personal chefs, food and beverage directors and managers of franchises and supermarkets. The industry has changed in other ways as well to my knowledge. As we are in the Information Age, access to revered techniques, recipes and ideas are easily accessible at the speed of touch and type. I'm also noticing a stronger push for utilizing native grown produce.
GB: What should The Bahamas focus on to stay competitive?
Ron: This is a hard question to answer in that a definite response does not justly address a myriad of issues one may perceive. However, I can speak to factors such as nutrition, redefining and elevating our cuisine and adapting more European culinary disciplines in our forte. Generally speaking, our food is truly tasty and satiating. Tourists from across the globe make an effort to try chowders, stews and souses, fritters, peas n' rice, Bahama Mamas and other local gastronomy. Adversely, our diet impairs our health. Finding creative ways to preserve or create new flavors with an emphasis on wellbeing for the health conscious or apprehensive tourist (or native) is barely exploited.
Lastly, for those with a high appreciation of fine dining, we can improve on presentation and modern techniques; the taste is already there.. I'd like to see a Bahamian restaurant achieve a Michelin Star or three, fully exploiting local produce. That would definitely garner attention to our country and perhaps promote more food-based tourism to a different audience.
By PAUL G TURNQUEST
Tribune Staff Reporter
OFFICERS from the Commercial Crimes Unit are investigating the latest Nigerian internet scam that offers jobs to Bahamians as "survey assistants" through the social media website Facebook.
Offering itself as a "chance to get paid for shopping and dining out," the job requires that a person visit a variety of stores, restaurants, and services throughout the Bahamas and receive payment for their time and effort.
Applicants were asked to fill out a simple application (devoid of any fees) which highlighted that no previous experience or qualifications was required.
A portion of the application reads as follows:
Baha Mar "wowed" New York's top corporate, media and travel industry executives, rolling out the "blue carpet" at an innovative series of interactive "reverse upfront" events that provided an insider's preview of what executives have promised will be one of the most compelling and exciting destinations in North America.
Attendees comprised an A-list of top executives from travel consortia, major networks and publishing companies such as Viacom, Facebook, CNN, Microsoft and Universal, according to a release issued by Baha Mar yesterday.
"Baha Mar is connecting The Bahamas to the world with all the glamor and style of a bygone era. They are doing something that will change our hospitality industry and The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism is proud to be an ally of Baha Mar," said Minister of Tourism Obie Wilchcombe, who was also a guest at the event.
"We immersed potential New York sponsors, advertisers, editors and meeting and travel planners in vivid demonstrations of just how Baha Mar will revolutionize leisure and group travel opportunities. They were awed by our entire three million-square-foot campus on 1,000 acres featuring 2,200 hotel rooms and suites, 100,000 square feet of gaming, 200,000 square feet of combined, flexible, state-of-the-art convention and meeting space, more than 50,000 square feet of high-end retail and shopping, 18 holes of championship golf, over 30 restaurants, bars and lounges, and 20 acres of beach, pool and lakeside experiences including a 3,000-foot beachfront. The result? Baha Mar will dominate major business, promotional and editorial channels, supporting thousands of new jobs and a thriving economy," said Sarkis Izmirlian, Baha Mar chairman and chief executive officer.
"The inspiration was to take a page out of what the networks and cable companies do when they preview their next season's lineup for advertisers at their annual 'upfronts.' Here, we gathered together an impressive collection of potential partners to show them what we will offer and invite them to come back to us with surprising and creative opportunities for the future," said Denise Godreau, Baha Mar chief marketing officer.
Invited guests arrived at the events in Chelsea, entering a simulated airplane boarding gate. They traveled through a jet fuselage-styled passageway overlooking beautiful Bahamian waters and arrived a glamorous "terminal", where a 52-inch flat screen displayed stunning video imagery of Baha Mar, The Bahamian Riviera. Images of the four hotels, Mondrian, Rosewood, Grand Hyatt and The Baha Mar Casino & Hotel, as well as the Jack Nicklaus golf course, spa and pools told the story of what would await the guests at this new resort destination.
After this imaginative welcome, guests emerged into a contemporary salon gleaming in signature Baha Mar blue and white. Near the softly illuminated architectural model of the resort campus, the Baha Mar logo etched in white marble and highlighted with gold leaf was a striking beacon adjacent to distinctive food and drink with the flavor of The Bahamas, such as Rum Dums by visiting Bahamian mixologist Wilfred Sands.
Baha Mar presenters were the visionary Sarkis Izmirlian; President Tom Dunlap, responsible for making this $3.5 billion vision a reality, and Chief Marketing Officer Denise Godreau, who orchestrated the New York reverse upfront events with Las Vegas-based advertising firm SK+G and New York-based WCMG Events.
In addition, guests met Paul Pusateri, newly appointed chief operating officer and general manager of Baha Mar Casino & Hotel; Robert 'Sandy' Sands, Baha Mar senior vice president, administration and external affairs; Greg Saunders, general manager, Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar; Cate Farmer, general manager, Mondrian at Baha Mar; Luis Fernandes, managing director, Rosewood at Baha Mar; and Dianna Wong, Dianna Wong Architecture & Interior Design.
Serving as master of ceremonies for the morning editorial breakfast was Peter Greenberg, travel editor for CBS-TV and host of The Travel Detective, the new series airing on PBS.
The luncheon for 100 top travel and industry meeting planners showcased all of the resort's new amenities, but especially the state of-the-art convention facilities including an art gallery with the largest collection of Bahamian art in the country.
The glittering grand finale was the evening "reverse upfront" for sponsors and advertisers featuring David Verklin, the charismatic operating partner of Calera Capital, known for always being on the leading edge of media innovation, as the master of ceremonies.
"CMO Denise Godreau challenged partners to think outside the box, to innovate, to be bold, to be daring. It was a great challenge to lay out and one we at Viacom are very excited to take on," remarked Neils Shuurmans, chief marketing officer at the global mass media company.
With plans underway to construct a Lucayan Village replica in San Salvador, the government is now placing a renewed focus on promoting cultural tourism, an area The Bahamas has "dropped the ball on".
Tourism Minister Obie Wilchcombe told Guardian Business he believes the project will go a long way in diversifying the country's tourism product, while bringing dozens of jobs to the island.
"I see this sector as being very profitable because people want that experience. It's true that we have dropped the ball in the area of cultural tourism, and that's something that we are trying to correct now. It's important that we ensure the world understands that we're a nation with many experiences," according to Wilchcombe.
He called the missed opportunity a shame, as more tourists are in search of history, culture and understanding the destination and its people while on vacation.
"It is significantly important because of what San Salvador means to world history. If you look at the country's constitution, you would see that the rebirth of the new world was pointed out in the first paragraph, the rocks, cays and the islands," he said.
"We have to utilize that reality and attract people from the world to visit an island like San Salvador and The Bahamas."
In San Salvador to sign a heads of agreement for the $90 million expansion of the Club Med resort on that island last week, Prime Minister Perry Christie said the tourism project will seek to recreate something that existed prior to Christopher Columbus' landfall on San Salvador, and he is confident that it will bring "great" economic value to the island and its residents.
"It will provide opportunities for architects, builders and construction workers. Entrepreneurs, artists and artisans will also be able to provide their services as there will be stores and restaurants located just outside of the village," he said.
"It will also create new jobs such as trained tour guides, hospitality hosts and support staff. That's going to happen with this project."
He said historical authenticity would be "stretched" in the village's design, making it more appealing for tourists, locals and students.
"I am sure it will become a uniquely enriching experience for Bahamians and visitors alike. There will be three main elements to this project," the prime minister revealed.
"The project will seek to recreate in a very tangible and visual form a historically faithful microcosm of the Lucayan civilization as it would have existed in San Salvador in the pre-Columbian period."
An online brokerage launched early last year is reporting more than 100,000 equity transactions each day, a figure that far exceeds all other Bahamian firms combined.
SureTrader.com, listed with the Securities Exchange of The Bahamas since January 2012, has increased its staff to eight Bahamians and filled out its 4,000-square-foot office at Elizabeth on Bay. The firm plans to hire up to 20 more people by the end of this year and currently seeks professional Bahamians amid expansion, according to its founder Guy Gentile.
The parent company, Swiss American Securities Limited, is also the founder of SpeedTrader.com, a U.S. online trading broker with around $20 million in annual revenue.
Gentile told Guardian Business that SureTrader.com is poised to earn $25 million in annual revenue in 2013.
"What gives us our edge is superior trading technology and a New York business approach," he said. "I operate a lean aggressive staff that has a strong desire to be the best. Not only the best in The Bahamas, but the best in the world."
Gentile added that SureTrader.com hopes to open 5,000 new accounts in 2013 after opening 2,000 in 2012. The firm wants to become the largest brokerage in The Bahamas by revenue in 2014.
"We have given ourselves an advantage by offering extended margin leverage of 6-1 compared to 3-1 in Canada and 4-1 in the U.S. We have the largest short list in the industry, we allow shorting in penny stocks, and you can fund an account easily with a credit card. There are no restrictions on day trading," he added.
Later this year, Swiss American plans to widen its project offerings through Canadian stock and options, Gentile said, and by connecting VISA debit cards to the accounts.
Following a staffing boost, the firm also wants to offer a customer service line and eventually go to 24 hours after adding European trading. The company has recently aligned itself with RBC Royal Bank, Interactive Brokers, ETC Clearing and DAS Trader.
Gentile, a U.S. investor, remains the largest tenant in the Elizabeth on Bay plaza, located on East Bay Street. He has invested approximately $400,000 into the new SureTrader.com office, with an additional $1.5 million or so in Sur Sushi.
The latter is expected to open in the coming weeks.
Back in December, Gentile reported that the restaurant has received more than 500 applications. Only 45 Bahamians will be hired for the trendy, new restaurant. Blu, formerly located across from the up-and-coming Sur Sushi, closed its doors late last year and put dozens of Bahamians out of work. Investors hope Gentile and his business ventures will help re-energize the plaza and East Bay Street.
Nassau and Paradise Island, The Bahamas - Prepare to be awed by Nassau Paradise Island. One of the most popular ports of call for cruise ships and home to the #1 family resort in the Caribbean region, Nassau Paradise Island is the island with something for everyone. You will find the perfect mix of water sports, historical tours, shopping, golf, casino gaming, restaurants and nightlife.
In this video you will hear from Brooks & Ryan Russell of High Seas Excursion; Clee J Vigal of Stuart's Cove; Eldina Miller of Exclusive Bahamian Crafts; Donovan Ingraham...
A new development overlooking Governor's Harbour is "full bore" into construction and expects to open its doors around this time next year.
French Leave Resort on Eleuthera, which broke ground several months ago, is targeting 16 hotel cottages and a "commercial area" within the next 12 to 16 months. At least 30 Bahamians will find full-time employment once this first phase opens.
Eddie Lauth, partner in Governor's Harbour Resort & Marina and the CEO of Shaner Capital, said the underground utilities are "well advanced" and crews have moved on to the third hotel cottage.
"In the next 12 months we hope to have 16 of these cottages on the seafront with the commercial area completed. We are definitely on schedule," he said. "The other 23 cottages will come online over the course of another 24 months or so following that."
Shaner Bahamas, a company founded by Lance T. Shaner, entered into a partnership with Governor's Harbour Resort & Marina to build and finance the property. Shaner Bahamas is an off-shoot of the Shaner Hotel Group, a corporation with more than 24 owned or managed properties and thousands of employees.
French Leave has already created dozens of construction jobs as local crews work to complete the resort.
Lauth told Guardian Business that the commercial area includes a bar and grill, pool, events lawn, fitness center, reception, gift shop, fire pit area and wedding pavilion. Developers have a beach pub lined up as well. Between the commercial zone and the 16 cottages, he said 30 full-time jobs is likely a "conservative" number".
The cottages, he explained, are built in a traditional Bahamian style with cedar roofs and hurricane resistant glass.
"Shaner has been really committed to doing the project the right way. He is interested in finding materials that will make the test of time," according to Lauth.
The French Leave executive revealed that the business model is continuously evolving. He said that developers are interested in putting some of the cottages up sale, effectively turning the development into a hotel and second-home hybrid.
He pointed out that Shaner Bahamas has access to some 270 acres. Investors have considered French Leave as potentially just the beginning of a much larger community, not unlike Schooner Bay on Abaco.
Second-home owners at French Leave would give rise to further expansion to the commercial area.
That said, Lauth was quick to note that developers are keen to get through the first six acres before making any decisions.
Formerly the site of Club Med, the property was purchased in 2004, with further land acquired from the Frank Lloyd Trust.
With a soft opening in its sights, Lauth insisted that airlift is not a concern for the new destination. The reason Eleuthera is special, he said, is the island represents the road less travelled.
For those that want to get to French Leave, there are plenty of flights available.
"It's real not that hard to get here. You can easily fly into Nassau and there are several daily flights to Eleuthera. We are wary of the mass market," he told Guardian Business. "Be careful what you wish for."
Lauth added that the small boutique hotel concept is the clear winning concept on the Family Islands, a formula more and more developers are looking to mimic.
French Leave is the second resort on Eleuthera injecting new life into the island in recent times.
Earlier this month, the $30 million Cove Eleuthera officially opened its doors and became one of the largest employers in the Family Islands.
It opened with 60 rooms and took on a monthly payroll of $100,000. Another 60 rooms are on the way.
The Cove also includes two restaurants and an impressive list of amenities.
An attorney for the Bimini Blue Coalition (BBC) said Friday that Resorts World Bimini (RWB) should struggle to persuade the Bahamian courts that it should be allowed to "rely" on the new permit which it provided to the Privy Council as the correct and appropriately obtained evidence of its ability to dredge.
In the wake of a decision by the Privy Council in London to grant an injunction halting the dredging off Bimini, Fred Smith, Queen's Counsel (Q.C.), said that the developers will now be in the position of trying to persuade a Bahamian court that the permit they showed in court for the first time on Friday morning, before the Privy Council in London, was issued properly and provides the legal basis for them to move ahead.
RWB had previously argued in a lower court that the permit, which was granted a week after the dredging started, was unnecessary, as the process is governed by another law.
In an interview with Guardian Business on Friday, following the Privy Council's decision to grant the injunction until such time as RWB and the government can prove that their approvals were properly obtained, Smith said: "Now it is going to be very difficult for either of them to go back to the Court of Appeal with a straight face and say that they did not mislead the Court of Appeal when they said they didn't need a permit under the Conservation and Protection of the Physical Landscape of The Bahamas Act (CPPLB Act), when as counsel for the Bimini Blue Coalition I was on my feet arguing at the Privy Council they sought to get around such a challenge by producing such (a permit obtained under the CPPLB act).
"They convinced the Court of Appeal 2-1 that the (CPPLB) act had no application to marine variance, and yet in the Privy Council they completely reversed their position and sought to avoid the injunction by producing the permit.
He added: "They cannot be allowed to say one thing to one court and another thing to another court. It is completely unprincipled on their part, and quite frankly I am shocked that they would pull such a ruse at the hearing."
After two short hearings on Thursday and Friday last week, three days after the Court of Appeal in Nassau rejected the BBC's application for an injunction of the Bimini dredging, judges at the Privy Council approved the injunction.
In a statement, Resorts World Bimini said it would "temporarily" halt the dredging activity, which is part of its North Bimini Ferry Terminal project, set to make way for the docking of the company's cruise ship bringing passengers from Miami to Bimini for the day.
However, a spokesperson, Heather Krasnow, said the company is of the view that it has all that is necessary to be able to lift the injunction "expeditiously". A hearing on lifting the injunction is anticipated to take place in court today.
In an interview on Friday, Larry Glinton, President of the Bahamas National Trust, welcomed the injunction ruling.
"What it does is it provides a pause to the madness that's been going on this week, and it really is madness. It causes everybody to stop and assess the situation properly and thoroughly," said Glinton.
Eric Carey, Executive Director of the BNT, said that it appeared that Resorts World Bimini's "rush" to complete the project had seen environmental management efforts suffer.
"They're so rushed to go ahead that obviously they didn't put in place proper environmental protocols, and so in their rush to get things started, siltation started pouring out," he said.
Neal Watson, president of the Bahamas Diving Association and operator of the Bimini Scuba Center at the Bimini Sands Resort on the island, said he was "over-the-moon thrilled" by the decision.
"When I heard the news, I just absolutely couldn't believe it. It's just wonderful, wonderful news for Bimini and for the environment."
Watson said that it appears that with the ferry project and its potential to damage the world famous reefs for which Bimini is known, the island may trade high-value diving visitors, who spend "anywhere between $1,500 and $2,500 a week" to dive in Bimini, spread among a variety of businesses - hotels, dive centers, restaurants and more - for "$69 day trippers, who will come and buy a couple of beers and a conch salad."
The dive expert said he has already seen the downside of the dredging on the marine environment since it began a week and a half ago.
"I'm not a marine engineer. I'm not a marine biologist. I'm a diver that's been diving in Bimini for 40 years, and I know when I take a group of 15 or 20 to dive in these spectacular pristine waters that Bimini is known for and I take them to one of my favorite spots and I can't see the bottom there is a problem. This is already what is happening."
Smith called the injunction decision a "watershed moment for The Bahamas. It is a signal to the government that you must respect the local people."
"The Bimini Blue Coalition is ecstatic that the rule of law has prevailed."
Smith reiterated that the Bimini Blue Coalition is not against development.
"It is simply about demanding a place at the table to discuss development and the future of Bimini's community."
Last week, amidst heightened concern over plumes of siltation spreading from the dredging site toward Bimini's reefs, it was confirmed that Earl Deveaux is the environmental compliance manager for Resorts World Bimini and the ferry terminal project.
Contacted on Friday for a response to concerns raised about possible "breaches" of environmental best practices at the site by the Bahamas National Trust and the Bimini Blue Coalition, among others, Deveaux said "no comment."
Attorney for Resorts World Bimini in The Bahamas, John Wilson of McKinney Bancroft and Hughes, also declined to comment at this time when contacted by Guardian Business about the injunction decision on Friday.
Cooking may be all about bringing together the right ingredients in the right quantities and applying
techniques to create a delicious meal that stimulates the senses. For Noel St. Claude, the executive chef at Treasure Cay Resort and Marina, his recipes combine formal training with old Bahamian techniques, marries indigenous produce with international favorites, and fuses formal kitchen experience with great-grandmother’s banana-leaf practicality.
“I approach the culinary field through the eyes of junkanoo, and through using natural resources given to us by Mother Nature,” the executive chef said.
St. Claude has three restaurants under him at the Treasure Cay Resort: ...
Chef Devan McPhee remembers vividly the day he went to church and was asked by his pastor what he wanted to be in life. The youngster, seven or eight at the time, thought back to the fact that he had been watching the Food Network before he left out of the house that Sunday morning, having just gotten cable installed, and said he wanted to be a chef because he'd just seen them on television. His pastor prophesied that young McPhee would be one of the best chefs The Bahamas would see and at a very young age at that.
That pastor's prophecy seems to be coming true as Chef McPhee, now 25, owns his own restaurant and bar. It was just in May that he signed on the dotted line to lease the Simmer Down Restaurant and Stir It Up Bar at the Marley Resort on Cable Beach where he's certainly simmering some amazing pots and stirring up delicious libations.
Simmer Down Restaurant showcases a fusion of Bahamian and Jamaican food with an international flair as he complements the cuisine with French and European touches and relies on lots of spices and herbs to his foods making him one of the hottest young chefs in the country.
"Our theme in the kitchen is we always cook with love and we serve food prepared with love, and translating that over to the bar, we provide drinks to complement the food," he says.
Even though he's new to the restaurant ownership business, Chef McPhee is not new to the kitchen and definitely not new to the Simmer Down Restaurant kitchen as he was the executive chef prior to the resort closing for 10 months. Upon its reopening, he gladly took charge of his own fate, switching up the menu to reflect his cooking style and his Bahamian heritage, and he's kept some of the old favorites that were hits.
While the menu is exciting all around and offers something for everyone -- including vegetarians, the chef says there are a few menu items that are chef's choice and a must try -- items he considers his signature items.
From the soups, the Lobster and Pumpkin Bisque (infused with ginger and curry, topped with a cinnamon cream dollop) he gives two thumbs up.
"It's a burst of flavors and not what you expect with the fresh ginger, curry and cinnamon cream dollop. Lobster bisque is standard on restaurant menus, but when you taste the pumpkin in there with the ginger ... the pimentos, the fresh thyme, it's a burst of flavor and then the cinnamon cream dollop mellows it out."
While he says all salads are good, he's most pleased with his Caribbean lobster and mango salad that he says he came up with off the fly. "I was poaching some lobster for the lobster bisque one day and there was some mango on the table, and I saw the yellow and the white and some cherry tomatoes and I said let's try something. I marinated it in a passion fruit dressing with fresh basil, ginger ... I played around with it and I tried it as a chef's special that night with a blueberry balsamic drizzle to go with it to bring out the color, topped it off with fresh greens and toasted coconut and it was a hit." From that night it made the menu.
If he's sitting down to dine, he opts for a callaloo and spinach vegetable empanada, just to add a different touch to the courses if you're having a three-course meal. It's also a dish he says vegetarians would appreciate as well as it's healthy. The baked empanada is a puff pastry stuffed with Jamaican cheddar cheese which he says balances out the flavors of the callaloo and bitterness of the spinach.
The Down Home Roasted Organic Duck (marinated in pineapple and Bacardi rum with island gratin potatoes, broccoli rabe and cinnamon glazed carrots) makes this restaurant owner proud. It's presented with a sweet potato gratin, garnished with fried plantain and they make a pineapple and coconut rum sauce to go with it.
The Bahamian lobster duo (coconut cracked conch and broiled with a Jamaican vegetable run down, homemade mango chutney and drizzled with a lobster essence) is another menu favorite.
And you should not leave the Simmer Down Restaurant without trying dessert. The must have item is the Mama Lur's apples 'n cream (a warm crumble with fresh apples, and fresh guavas with ginger vanilla ice cream and apple cider reduction).
Chef McPhee says he gets his guavas from the islands and freezes them for this dessert, because he says there's nothing like the taste of real guava. They also make their own ice cream and the dish is topped off with caramelized pecans, crème caramel and finished with toasted coconut.
With a number of other options on the menu, Chef McPhee prefers to keep his menu small and personalized. But he intends to change the menu with the seasons. As we are in the summer months, the menu reflects a lot of fruits, colorful sauces and dressings. In the fall and winter he intends to pull out ingredients like star anise and cinnamon to warm things up, and offer heartier options like rib eye and tenderloin and a lot more soups to go with the cooler temperatures.
With a kitchen staff he handpicked because they had the same vision that he had for the restaurant and bar that he now owns. "I picked them because I wanted to share my knowledge with tem and I didn't want anyone who would be complacent because they'd been working here prior to the resort closing," said Chef McPhee. "I wanted to start fresh. I wanted it to be like night and day and the first thing I did was to reduced menu prices drastically, because people loved the place, but they talked about the prices, and I try to work with the locals pocket," he says. The chef even offers a daily three-course prix fixe meal special that changes weekly. For $55 you get a soup or salad and usually it's the lobster bisque or shrimp appetizer; you get a choice of the jerk chicken medallion or the chef's special which is the fish of the day, and a dessert -- either the Mama Lur's Apples and Cream or the Caribbean Chocolate Vibes.
"Going into this I knew I had to do something different, because the place had already existed and try to get that same market, but make it my market," says Chef McPhee.
To make your Simmer Down Restaurant experience unique, he offers a different experience nightly. He came up with "Taxi Nights" on Monday and Tuesdays to catch the tourist market; Wine Down Wednesdays for people who like wine and free tapas; and Thursday and Fridays are corporate happy hour when he does exotic martinis and specials and Saturdays are known as stirred up and sizzlin'. A five member jazz band On Cue performs from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays as well.
At 25, Chef McPhee's future is in his own hands as a restaurant owner, but he says as an apprentice chef while he trained under many great chefs in the hotels, he realized he didn't want that to be him -- working in the same kitchen year after year, becoming programmed. He wanted to make a name for himself
"Even though it's a risk, the good thing about it is that I took this venture because it's a smaller operation where I could start out small and gradually grow to the level that I want to be at ... and I was already familiar with the place [Simmer Down Restaurant] and it was just a matter of polishing up some stuff, getting the menu together and choosing the right staff."
Chef McPhee credits Chef Addiemae Farrington of the Culinary Hospitality Management Institute, the late Chef Jasmine Clarke-Young, Chef Paul Haywood of Altantis, Chef Wayne Moncur of the Ocean Club and Chef Tracey Sweeting (his former executive chef at the Marley Resort) with giving him the training that has given him so much confidence to do what he's now doing.
"They trained me so well in all areas that I'm able to be creative and do what I'm doing, with hot food because I'm a trained pastry chef," said Chef McPhee. "They really gave me a good school bag to carry. I can pull out things and be versatile. Plus, it's in my heart, and you have to cook with love. You can have the fancy name, and your food can look pretty, but that passion and soul has to be in it."
Chef McPhee even keeps his kitchen open a little longer than most restaurants, taking his last order at 10:30 p.m. after opening at 6 p.m.
For the chef, the new venture is fun, but scary as he knows he has the livelihood of his staff in his hands.
At Stir It Up Bar he says you have to have the Blue Razzberry Martini and the Jamaica Me Crazy. It just sounds crazy and it's fun and people enjoy them. I wanted to add my flair to the menu and these are my signature ones. They're new to the menu, because coming into the restaurant and bar business, I had to bring something new to the table. I reduced the drink prices too and kept it straight across the board.
It's new, it's scary but fun, because you have the livelihood of staff in your hands and they have to be paid. "I realize what it is to be an employee and now an employer, even though I'm at a young age. It's like you have an additional pair of eyes -- you watch everything, things you didn't care about before you now care about -- even on the service aspect. "
CARIBBEAN SPICY SHRIMP APPETIZER WITH POTATO AND SWEET CORN PUREE
6 - 16/20 shrimp
½ oz Jerk seasoning
2 oz homemade ginger and garlic chili sauce
½ oz herb marinade
For the potato and sweet corn puree
½ lb Yukon potato, cooked
4 oz sweet corn puree
3 oz heavy cream
1 oz butter
Sugar, to taste
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the tropical fruit salsa:
4 oz fresh mango diced
4 oz fresh ripe pineapple diced
1 oz bell pepper fine diced
1 oz red onion diced
1 oz distilled white vinegar
1 tsp fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 orange
2 oz fresh banana mashed
Salt and pepper, to taste
Honey as needed
Combine ingredients in a stainless steel bowl and mix together, season to taste with alt and pepper and let stand 30 minutes before serving.
For the shrimp: Season the shrimp with salt and jerk seasoning and herb marinade, let stand 30 minutes. Grill to desired doneness and top with chili sauce, Finish shrimp in the oven and serve.
For the potato and sweet corn puree: Puree ingredient together to desired taste and consistency, season and serve. Garnish with herb oil and chips. Combine all ingredients together and blend thoroughly.
For the tropical fruit salsa: Combine ingredients in a stainless steel bowl and mix together, season to taste with alt and pepper and let stand 30 minutes before serving.
CARIBBEAN MANGO AND LOBSTER SALAD
1 lb spiny lobster meat cooked and sliced
1 oz Spanish onion fine diced
2 oz fresh cherry tomatoes chopped
Juice of 2 lemons
2 large mangoes
1 oz ginger chopped
1 tsp salt
Salt and fresh goat pepper
1 oz chopped cilantro
1 tsp sugar
4 oz passion fruit dressing
Combine ingredients in a mixing bowl; add enough dressing to bind ingredients. Be sure to season with salt and pepper. Mix, chill and serve. Garnish with micro greens chilled asparagus and a lemon vinaigrette.
MAMA LURR'S APPLES 'N CREAM
4 Granny smith apples
1 can uava shells
1 tsp cinnamon
½ cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 star anise
1 tsp lemon juice
¼ tbs butter
½ oz flour
3 oz home made vanilla ice cream
½ cup butter
1 ¼ cup flour
2 tbs sugar
2 tbs raisins
2 tbs crushed almonds/ walnuts
Peel and slice apples. In sauce pan melt butter, sugar, cinnamon, lemon juice and star anise. Add guavas and sliced apples. Let simmer for about two minutes. Thicken slightly with flour. Place in bowl and allow to set.
For crumble: Fold in at room temperature butter with the flour into small pieces. Add sugar, raisins, and almonds. Place on top of apple and guava mixture and bake for 4-8 minutes. Serve with ice cream and add toasted coconut.
Construction of the $6 million Devonshire Place development, located in western New Providence, is expected to be completed by year's end.
Devonshire Place, which is just down the street from the upcoming $3.5 billion Baha Mar, is marketed to young professionals as there continues to be limited options for this demographic.
The 20-unit development will consist of two and three-bedroom units starting at $239,000, making Devonshire Place Nassau's newest affordable gated community.
Ryan Knowles, a real estate agent at H.G. Christie Limited, revealed to Guardian Business that the response to the development from potential buyers has been "totally incredible". He believes its success so far speaks to the developer's reputation and the demand in the market.
"It's very rare in The Bahamas that a development is able to get pre-sales before any work has begun on construction activity. Bahamians usually want to see, touch and feel before they make a decision, sign a contract or make a deposit," Knowles pointed out.
"We have been able to sell out nearly half of the development before work even hit the ground, so I think that's pretty remarkable."
He confirmed that the land has been cleared at Devonshire Place and developers are preparing to break ground soon. Knowles called the development "exciting".
"It's midway between the old City Market and current Super Value location on Cable Beach. It is tucked away, three streets away from the main road. Obviously, it's close enough to the beach, shopping, restaurants, the clinic, and the gas station in Sandyport. In a year-and-a-half, you will have the excitement of Baha Mar so this development is really in the heart of the action," he noted.
In addition to all 20 units being end units, all will be outfitted with LED lighting.
"Every unit is an end unit, which gives every unit lots of light and additional windows. One special feature is that you have LED lighting throughout. With LED lighting, obviously it's going to be very energy efficient because it does not pull a lot of power and has the ability to keep the place really cool," according to Knowles.
I think that's pretty trendsetting, especially for a product in this price point. You normally see LED lighting in higher-end homes. To be able to achieve that at a $239,000 price point, that's really commendable."
Meantime, the company's vice president John Christie shared with Guardian Business he believes the western New Providence development will have a positive impact on the real estate market.
"Especially with Baha Mar coming, the timing is right. I think they should be able to sell fairly well. Once Baha Mar gets going, the value of property will increase over the next few years. Over the years, the prices have come down so it's a good time to buy as we move out of the recession," he added.
Nassau and Paradise Island, The Bahamas -
Prepare to be awed by Nassau Paradise Island. One of the most popular
ports of call for cruise ships and home to the #1 family resort in the
Caribbean region, Nassau Paradise Island is the island with something
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tours, shopping, golf, casino gaming, restaurants and nightlife.
this video you will hear from Brooks & Ryan Russell of High Seas
Excursion; Clee J Vigal of Stuart's Cove; Eldina Miller of Exclusive
Bahamian Crafts; Donovan Ingraham...
Conch and Kalik have come together and are proving to be a winning combination at one of the island's newest restaurants -- Conch N' Kalik Bar and Grill. It's the place where the mollusk and native beer can be found in almost every offering from the appetizer portion of the menu through to the soups and salads, burgers, sandwiches and wraps, and their specialties. But the chefs hold off on pushing the envelope and adding it into any of their dessert items.
At Conch N' Kalik Bar and Grill located in Pompey Square, downtown, the menu features items that are twists on regular appetizers -- think conch chili fries (ground conch chili, sharp cheddar on seasoned fries), nachos (tri-colored nachos topped with homemade aged cheddar and Kalik beer cheese sauce, diced tomatoes, pickled jalapenos, guacamole and sour cream), firecracker conch spring roll (an oversized handcrafted crispy roll with blackened conch, vegetables, rice noodles and sweet tamarind dipping sauce), conch scampi, conch fettuccinie with garlic bread, conch parmesan with fettucini pasta and garlic bread, island-style coconut curry conch and conch and crab cake.
There are other unique offerings featuring the two ingredients after which the restaurant is named, like the Black Angus Beef Burger (with aged cheddar and Kalik beer cheese sauce, Kalik's double crunch onion ring, pecan smoked bacon, shredded lettuce, heirloom tomatoes on a Brioche bun) and deep water conch salad sandwich (fried conch on whole grain ciabbata bread with sour-orange mayo, shredded lettuce and vegetable salsa).
The menu items were all dreamed up in the mind of Chef Devin Johnson who opened the restaurant, but has now moved on and left it in the capable hands of Chef Eunesha Solomon who now wears the executive sous chef hat. It's a task she's up to. When Chef Devin came on board to open the restaurant, he headhunted Chef Eunesha from their previous place of employment to take over after he moved on.
Before he left, Chef Devin said the 50-item menu took him six weeks to come up with and master. A chef who is big on playing up local ingredients who has served as the national team manager for many years, he said it was a delight to come up with the menu that showcases Bahamian ingredients.
And the portion sizes are huge. He said they had to do it that way to give people their money's worth.
"People eat with their eyes, and people love it," said Chef Devin of the oversized, tasty portions that they have become known for.
They also offer a signature creamy conch and roast corn chowder (chunks of conch meat with fresh roasted corn, root vegetables and a hint of goat pepper), mango barbeque ranch chicken salad (mango, avocado, grape tomatoes, grilled corn, pigeon peas, cucumbers and romaine lettuce tossed with a mango infused barbeque ranch dressing, topped with crispy fried onions that are surprising people that are so good).
And there are also specialty offerings -- the tamarind glazed flat iron steak, mango rum basted pork baby back ribs, lobster fettucine (only served during the season), and Kalik Gold beer battered fish and chips.
And you can't have a restaurant that serves conch without offering Bahamian favorites like like cracked conch and Bahamian style steam conch. There's also a Bahamian style grilled conch, conch salad and the conch salad of the day that is upstaging the traditional salad - the tropical. Conch N' Kalik serves theirs with pineapple, mango and green apple.
According to Chef Solomon, the profile at Conch N' Kalik is all about flavor.
While they're proud of their food, the libations menu at the restaurant isn't to be sneezed at, and they say you have to have their signature drink called a Kalik-arita, where the Kalik of your choice meets a margarita base.
And while they just didn't take a chance on incorporating conch or Kalik into any of their desserts, they do offer tasty endings to satisfy the sweet tooth - guava duff, passion fruit and white chocolate cheesecake, carrot-pineapple cake and a dark rich chocolate cake with a Caribbean twist which means it has a banana-coconut mousse and finished with almonds.
With its first location open, the proprietors of Conch N' Kalik are planning to open another four locations -- one in Abaco, Grand Bahama, Turks and Caicos Islands and Florida.
Conch and Kalik is open daily. They start their beverage service at 10 a.m. Their food service starts at 11 a.m. They close at midnight.
Prime Minister Perry Christie said yesterday he will officially open the Resorts World Bimini Casino on June 28, a development that he said will bring 400 jobs and more spin-off opportunities for entrepreneurs on that island.
Christie said the $24 million casino is just one of several developments underway that will create hundreds of jobs.
"What is happening in Bimini augurs so well for The Bahamas," he said. "This is an extraordinary development and 400 new jobs, not next year, but right now."
He said the developers have bought a cruise ship to ferry passengers daily between Florida and Bimini at "attractive prices".
That ship is projected to bring over 400,000 passengers to Bimini annually, Christie said, and will provide dedicated services to that island.
The prime minister also said that former Attorney General Tennyson Wells is the lead figure in a group that is interested in developing a resort in southwestern New Providence.
"Discussions are also taking place with a joint Bahamian and non-Bahamian group on a proposal which they are developing for a major tourism resort and an innovative attraction to be located on the southwestern part of New Providence," he said.
"And [this] development is predicated on the very casino license previously associated with the South Ocean property."
Christie also said that snags in the luxury Cat Island Golf and Beach Resort have been ironed out.
"I am particularly delighted that after protracted delays, through an ongoing dialogue with my government, all of the remaining issues and hurdles with Cat Island developers have been resolved.
"The way has been cleared for the developers to continue with this ambitious project."
He also said there are good prospects for a $90 million upgrade and expansion of Club Med in San Salvador, which he said would create more jobs.
He said the developers are in negotiations with the government over plans to renovate the Club Med village and build a spa; construct 360 condos and a five-star boutique hotel.
"Hundreds of construction and permanent jobs will be created, making San Salvador a tourism and commercial hub in the southeastern Bahamas," he said.
He said these developments are proof that investor confidence is returning to The Bahamas. He added that there are other Family Island developments on the table.
"In New Providence, Mr. Speaker, although we still have concerns about certain months in the year, there is ample evidence of the rejuvenation and expansion of large and small hotels," Christie said.
He said this includes the Atlantis Resort, Baha Mar, Albany, among others.
Christie said these developments will cause the creation of new jobs.
He said Atlantis is expected to complete renovations on Royal Towers and The Cove; open two new casino restaurants this year and two more in 2014; expand Plato's Lounge in Royal Towers and add more attractions to its property.
Christie added that the impending opening of the luxury Baha Mar resort in 2014 will bring thousands of jobs to the market.
His comments came as he wrapped up debate on the 2013/2014 budget.
Christie promised to detail plans for job creation in response to scathing criticism of the budget from Opposition Leader Dr. Hubert Minnis.
On Monday, Minnis said the new budget did not sufficiently address two key areas: crime and the economy.
"The Bahamas is meandering, while taking on water and sailing in the heavy seas of crime, joblessness, bloated public finances, increased government borrowing and erratic, inflammatory and reactionary immigration policies and a lack of focus," said Minnis as he contributed to the budget debate.
He said the government's efforts to fix those problems have been lackluster at best.
Minnis also called on the government to detail its job creation plans.
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A well-known realtor and advocate for commerce in the Cable Beach area says the $40 million Towers Shopping Centre will have a "strong demand" due to its proximity to Baha Mar.
Mario Carey, the president of Mario Carey Realty, said the retail village should be just one step in the commercial development around the $3.5 billion mega resort.
The top realtor is a strong advocate for a rezoning of Cable Beach along West Bay Street. Long stretches of the area, he explained, are still off-limits to businesses. He said that The Towers will be successful, but more could be done to give Bahamians entrepreneurial opportunities.
"I think it will have a very strong demand. Its only challenge will be proximity. Maybe they will have a shuttle service," Carey said yesterday. "My zoning idea was on the main road, where the energy is more direct and closer."
As exclusively revealed by Guardian Business on Monday, The Towers Shopping Centre, completely separate from Baha Mar, will break ground in three months along Baha Mar Boulevard, stretching down towards John F. Kennedy Drive.
Charles Christie, chief developer and president of C.A. Christie Real Estate, said the first phase involves 64,000 square feet. He is also planning restaurants, a movie theater, a small supermarket and office space.
"It is being market driven," Carey added. "The demand for things will only increase out west. The new shopping center at Old Fort has been a success. And there is huge demand for office space."
The realtor told Guardian Business that the government needs to allow commercial activity all the way from Arawak Cay to the Caves development.
Looking at the capital as a whole he noted that nearly every major thoroughfare has evolved and includes commercial activity along the main strip. He said Cable Beach is undergoing a similar "transition and evolution" in terms of real estate growth.
At the moment, he said there is too much "inconsistency" in regards to residential and commercial zoning along West Bay Street. By rezoning, he believes a wide cross-section of Bahamians will truly see the benefit of Baha Mar.
"What is in the best interest of Bahamians?" he asked. "The idea is to create as any entrepreneurial opportunities as possible. That is the balance and history has shown it has happened on every major thoroughfare here. Right across from the prime minister's house you have a restaurant. Why is commerce in pocket areas?"
For Christie's part, The Towers is poised to indeed be a concentrated commercial force on the doorstep of Baha Mar.
The development is aiming for around 55 tenants, and while the exact employment opportunities are unknown, it should easily create dozens if not hundreds of jobs.
Christie views The Towers as similar to Marina Village on Paradise Island.
Texas BBQ and smoke house meets Latin and Caribbean Flavor at Bucks Fire Grill where a varied menu is offered to excite every palate from down home flavors of homestyle BBQ to exciting salsas and seasonings from the Caribbean
At Bucks Fire and Grill, signature beef is prepared in the Latin American tradition with chimichurri sauce and their rib eye is prepared in the American way -- seared and cooked over charcoal. Their signature pork shoulders are marinated and smoked for 10 hours with hickory chips. All meats are thrown on a grill made by Argentines to produce a flavor the restaurant's owner says you won't believe.
The brainchild behind bringing Bucks Fire Grill, which is located at Village Road and Shirley Street is Brent Fox. He opened it because he simply had a hankering to bring good BBQ to the Bahamian public -- and he had some extra time on his hands.
But he's no novice when it comes to the restaurant scene. In the 1980s, Fox owned a rotisserie chicken franchise which closed its doors after a brief three-year run. He believes that restaurant was a little ahead of its time in the country as Bahamians gravitated toward their fried chicken and weren't really after the healthy alternative of rotisserie then.
Fox who confesses to always having had a passion for cooking said he learned from that experience -- the mistakes made and the positives involved with that franchise -- to come up with the concept for Bucks Fire Grill with input from family and friends.
"I've always had a passion for cooking. When I had [the franchise restaurant], I guess I wasn't quite ready for it either, but now that I have a little more time on my hands, I decided let me get back into the restaurant business again with something that did not have restraints on me," he said.
The open air Bucks Fire Grill is simply decorated with wooden tables and benches and fans slowly spinning in the ceiling. He wanted patrons to feel like they are dining in a barnyard or a country atmosphere, with a tropical atmosphere mixed in. You almost forget that a major road is just on the other side of the fence.
"I was trying to draw on that basic BBQ experience that you get in the States," he said of his restaurant that his been open to the public for a few months.
When he opened, Fox did so with a tight menu.
"We wanted to focus on producing our core meats, smoking them and making them come out just right."
Now that they've got their core items down pat, the menu was recently expanded to offer more variety. Patrons who may not have visited in the last four weeks may be surprised to find a more varied menu with offerings like chicken fajitas and more salads, including a chicken fiesta salad, a steak salad and a signature chicken Caesar salad. Fox has also debuted a bunch of new sandwiches -- grilled fish sandwich, seafood (shrimp and crab) salad sandwich, pulled pork or smoked pork sandwich.
The Latin influences on the menu include offerings like the black bean soup and a red bean soup that have also been popular since the restaurant opened. The sides also take on a Latin flair with their yucca with mojo (boiled cassava with citrus and garlic sauce) and black bean bowl. And dessert isn't left out as dessert is represented in the form of a flan.
In his mission to ensure that Bucks Fire Grill is a restaurant that patrons are comfortable dining at, Fox recently introduced a misting machine system to ensure that diners remain cool when visiting the establishment.
"We've had some complaints since we've come into the summer months that it's been hot, so we did some research with restaurants in the States that had a similar problem, and we went ahead and purchased a misting machine, a system that pumps out a very fine spray of water around the perimeter of the restaurant and when it does that, the interaction between the mist and the air creates a temperature drop between 10 to 15 degrees, so we are able to reduce the ambient temperature in the restaurant by a little more than 10 degrees. We've made it possible for it to feel somewhat like air-conditioning, but you're able to dine outside," said Fox.
From franchise owner to developing his own concept, Fox says his long-term vision for Bucks Fire Grill is to expand into the evenings with more entertainment. They currently offer salsa evenings on Wednesday nights and karaoke on Thursday nights.