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In the next few months, The Bahamas will see the rise of a new fast-food chain courtesy of AML Foods, as the company moves to refinance its preference shares to free up capital for the expansion.
Carl's Jr., a franchise under the CKE Restaurants Inc. umbrella, came to an agreement with AML Foods late last week. The deal will mean the construction of the first restaurant near the end of the second quarter, followed by possibly four more in the coming years.
The long-term investment for AML Foods should be in the range of $4 million, according to Gavin Watchorn, the company's CEO, and create up to 100 new jobs.
"The attraction to this is we think it will be a profitable business in its own right," he told Guardian Business. "We have a lot of existing infrastructure in place. We have logistics and back office staff, so our learning curve is not as steep. That's a great benefit to us and a strength. We'll be able to share costs with other parts of the company, such as Domino's, and yet generate a wider sales base."
After paying an up-front cost for the U.S. franchise, AML Foods will serve as a sole investor in the restaurants in The Bahamas while paying a standard fee based on sales.
As part of the announcement, Watchorn said the company has entered into an agreement with preference shareholders to restructure its preference share debt. The maturity date of the shares was extended from December 2015 to December 2022, with a reduced interest rate of 8 percent to 7.25 percent.
Watchorn told Guardian Business the move secures long-term funding for the company.
"It allows us to use operational cash flow for growth rather than debt repayment. We can grow our business," he explained.
Adding that it will ultimately result in higher returns for shareholders, the AML Foods chief emphasized that the preference shareholder group has continued to play a pivotal and supportive role. Not all of the freed-up cash goes toward Carl's Jr., he added, with some held in reserve to give the company liquidity "to take advantage of the marketplace".
AML Foods also issued a further $4.28 million in Class B preference shares under the revised terms.
Turning to the new product itself, Watchorn said the company spent the last 15 months researching a new fast-food franchise to bring to The Bahamas. He felt Carl's Jr., joining an already robust industry, will be a product Bahamians should "flock to".
Ned Lyerly, executive vice president of Global Franchise Development for CKE Restaurants, said The Bahamas as an attractive "quick service restaurant market".
"AML's strong track record in consumer retailing and the food services industry makes them an ideal partner for us," he said in a statement. "We share their core values of exceeding consumer expectations of quality, value and service and know that the Carl's Jr. brand will be well received in The Bahamas."
Watchorn added that "we have to build a competely new store" and negotiations are ongoing with a landlord. At this point, he could not reveal the location of the first Carl's Jr. franchise.
The Island House, a 30-room boutique hotel under construction on western New Providence, is progressing smoothly, according to Project Manager Lauren Holowesko.
With the project on track for an early 2015 opening, Holowesko said the sense of excitement is mounting as a number of its distinctive features begin to take shape.
"The project is really coming together," she said. "The majority of the rooms are in advanced or final stages, with some only awaiting fixtures and furniture. The utilities are all in place and the bathrooms are currently being outfitted.
"Best of all, we are now moving ahead with several of the elements that will make The Island House (TIH) stand out as unique - like the cinema, roof-top lounge and our collection of original local artwork."
Holowesko said TIH will stand out among Nassau resorts, having been designed with both visitors and the local community in mind, and as a symbiotic extension of the surrounding environment.
"We want to offer our guests an intimate and authentic experience they can't find at the bigger, more mainstream resorts; one that merges the height of contemporary luxury with the unaffected elegance of authentic island life.
"At the same time, we want TIH to become a cultural gathering space for locals and visitors alike. For example, our 48-seater theater will be open to the community and feature mainstream but also art house films and independent Caribbean productions. The versatile space will also play host to art exhibitions, seminars and speaking events."
Holowesko added that an ongoing call for artwork submissions aims to highlight young and emerging Bahamian talents as well as well-known local masters, the aim being to feature original work not just in the hotel's common areas, but also in every room.
"We are also employing an eco-conscious approach to hospitality. Indigenous plant life and natural elements will be featured throughout the hotel," she said.
"Our approach was born of an understanding that boutique hotels are a necessary component of the future growth and diversification our tourism product, in line with the global trend towards more intimate, eco-friendly resort options."
When completed, TIH will feature six rental apartments, two restaurants, a cafe, spa, gym, squash and paddle courts and movement studio for fitness classes.
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 ...
Fort Charlotte has been closed indefinitely to parties, while the Antiquities Monuments and Museums Corporation (AMMC) determines how best to move forward with using the national monument as a revenue earner, Tribune Business can reveal.
This comes on the heels of a movement coordinated by a Bahamian Club Owners Association to have "outdoor parties" operating as weekly nightclubs shut down, and restaurants that operate dances without the necessary music and dance licenses to cease and desist.
Scores of students who call the Elizabeth Estates Children's Home their home are returning to school this fall semester equipped to take on another year of classroom learning thanks to Team Mosaic.
In an effort to give back and show their love and appreciation for the Bahamian community, team members from Mosaic Restaurant banded together and hosted a back-to-school drive in support of the youngsters at the home.
"We at Mosaic -- Front of House division -- have committed ourselves to the effort of giving back and we all agreed that the best focus we can have is on our nation's youth, the future of this great country called The Bahamas," said restaurant manager, Shawn Saunders.
"Back-to-school is an important time for so many youngsters. We all fully understand that our economy is still in the process of recovering and so we decided to put our attention to those youngsters who are less fortunate, specifically those at the Elizabeth Estates Children's Home, and help them prepare for the start of another school year," he said.
Book bags, books, pens, pencils, pens, rulers crayons and notepads were among the items donated to the thankful youngsters and staff.
"We all firmly believe that if you willingly give from the heart, the benefits are bountiful and bountiful were the smiles on the faces of those kids. Both the kids and their guardians expressed a high sense of gratitude which we truly appreciated. This is what can happen when we all come together for one goal," said Saunders.
The Pointe gives back
Although small in size, the team at The Pointe decided to lend a helping hand and give back to the community through a donation of school supplies to Great Commission Ministries located on Wulff Road.
Great Commission Ministries is an organization which assists the less fortunate on a daily basis wherever possible. The donation is the team's way of making a positive impact, albeit a small one, in the community.
Vowing that the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) will "put Bahamians back to work", PLP Deputy Leader Philip Brave Davis said in Grand Bahama on Friday night the party would "raise work permit fees for jobs Bahamians are qualified to perform" if it wins the next general election.
"We are ready to revive Grand Bahama," said Davis during his party's formal introduction of its Grand Bahama candidates at Our Lucaya Resort.
Davis said the PLP would establish a program to identify Bahamians who are qualified to fill jobs when work permits that are now granted expire.
He added, "We will significantly cut taxes at the airport and harbor.
"The PLP will reduce hotel taxes by 50 percent for a period of five years for existing hotels and 10 years for new hotels in Grand Bahama.
"You can hold us to that. We are serious about bringing about a rebirth on this island."
Davis also said a PLP government would promote local entertainment on Grand Bahama.
"We will provide incentives and technical support for restaurants, nightclubs, local craft markets and support to develop bed and breakfast lodgings," he said. "We will awaken this magic city."
Davis said a PLP government would also provide incentives and subsidies for airlift of tourists to Grand Bahama, including targeted scheduled flights and charters for the provision of airlift for seasonal and event-related tourism.
"Your next PLP government will upgrade the Grand Bahama Island Promotion Board, to improve promotion of Grand Bahama in international markets," he said, vowing that, "It is Grand Bahama's time."
Davis also announced that the PLP is committed to extending duty free concessions to East and West Grand Bahama.
He said Grand Bahamians must decide whether they want to continue on the FNM's path of "job losses and failed opportunities".
"The better choice is the PLP with plans for job creation and empowerment that will put you first," he said.
The PLP currently has only one MP in Grand Bahama, Obie Wilchcombe, who represents West End and Bimini.
The other five existing seats in Grand Bahama are all held by the Free National Movement.
After the next election, there will be five seats in Grand Bahama, as a result of boundary cuts.
The PLP will again run Wilchcombe in West End and Bimini.
It will also run Julian Russell (Central Grand Bahama); Tanisha Tynes (East Grand Bahama); Gregory Moss (Marco City) and Michael Darville (Pineridge).
Davis urged Grand Bahamians "to come home with the PLP".
"Come with us as we set a course to put Bahamians back to work," he said.
"Come with us as we point young Bahamians into an era of prosperity and growth.
"Come with us as we build our nation and restore opportunity to the thousands of our countrymen and women."
By ALESHA CADET and
Tribune Features Writers
With the onset of the open lobster season, a number of Bahamian resturants are celebrating the delicacy by offering special menus.
Since the season opened on August 1,lobster tails can be seen at locals docks, in produce section of supermarkets, and on platters at local restaurants in abundance.
At Ristorante Villaggio patrons can enjoy a variety of lobster dishes during the resturant's annual lobster extravagenza.
Dion Forbes, General Manager at Ristoranté Villaggio, told Tribune Taste that August is their most popular time of year since they usually run a lobster extravaganza the first week of August every y ...
150 Students Preparing For Opportunities At Baha Mar. Today, students in the inaugural class of the Leadership Development Institute (LDI), a non-profit training institute supported by Baha Mar, celebrated an important milestone – completing half of the journey to graduation. Approximately 150 students, chosen from 3,500 applicants, were selected to enter the challenging program to receive training...
With millions in investment and hundreds of employees, the rela- tionship between Atlantis and The Alicart Restaurant Group now represents an integral driver in the New Providence economy and there is reason to believe it could get even bigger.
Virgil's, the $10 million restaurant, held its grand opening this week amid great hopes and expec- tations. Boasting around 470 seats, it joins Carmines as another large- scale eatery on the resort.
Combined, that means there are more than 1,000 seats flying under the Alicart and Atlantis banner, creating jobs for nearly 400 Bahamians.
"In high season, we can probably push the number of seats at Virgil's to 650," said Jeffrey Bank, the CEO of Alicart.
"Carmines has around 350 or so. What we have done is fulfill a need brought on by a tremendous volume of guests. Our partnership with Kerzner International is great and we're open to more concepts. They get us and we get them. We'll stumble into the next project with them."
The grand opening of Virgil's at Atlantis is just the latest develop- ment in a company under rapid expansion.
Bank told Guardian Business that Alicart generally tries to open an new restaurant "at least once a year". Prior to the $10 million Virgil's, Alicart launched a Carmines in Washington D.C., and the company is currently in advanced talks to bring the fran- chise to Las Vegas.
In total, Alicart owns and operates seven restaurants, employs more than 1,000 people and owns the rights to 29 different restaurant concepts.
The other Virgil's, located in New York City's Times Square, is "one of the busiest restaurants in the country", according to Bank.
It's a hefty resume that has fit in well with the Atlantis business model.
And while there is room for further projects down the line, Bank said Alicart is still grappling with the giant that is Virgil's.
"For right now, this is obviously a big project," he explained. "This has got to be the biggest barbecue restaurant in the Caribbean, if not North America. We need to ease into things gradually."
Virgil's is in the midst of a "soft launch", whereby it's taking on limited capacity as it kicks the tires and trains its staff. The restaurant served around 500 guests on its opening day on Tuesday, Bank
said, and employees were forced to turn some guests away.
"We are big believers in the soft opening," he added.
"Every day is a judgement in terms of ramping things up. We want things to go well and it's no fair for someone who is on a vaca- tion to not get excellent service."
A huge part of that process, Bank felt, is training.
There are currently five Alicart employees on hand at Virgil's showing the nearly 200 Bahamian employees the ropes.
The company's presence will be lessened over time, followed by monthly visits from senior execu- tives. Meanwhile, Alicart is engaged in a training program with Bahamians that will see a handful fly to New York City in January to gain further expertise.
"We are always looking for peo- ple to move up," Bank said.
"Now that we have opened, we'll be identifying people to bring back to New York."
Perhaps one of the more specialized positions at Virgil's is the role of "Pit Master".
Bank told Guardian Business that the current Pit Master is on hand from New York. The Pit Master of the future, a Bahamian, spent six months in the U.S. prior to the opening of Virgil's. He's now back in Nassau and working under his American counterpart.
Within a year, the Bahamian will be taking over the smokers.
Time may not be completely on their side, however. Bank said Atlantis is expected near full capacity over Thanksgiving Weekend, as a number of special events, such as the college basket- ball tournament, are being planned.
"We expect to be off the races by Thanksgiving Weekend," he added.
"Many of the teams have booked private rooms. Atlantis will be at full capacity and I'm expecting it to be a happy problem."
Bahamas - Returning Grand Bahamian, Brian Botham, officially opened
his dream bar and restaurant on Thursday, August 12th, in
Lucaya, Grand Bahama. Red Beard's Pub, formerly the Britannia
Pub, offers affordable meals in a relaxing new venue for both locals
and tourists to enjoy.
"I wanted to create
a local bar for friends and visitors alike but I wanted to make it an
affordable place for them to bring their families to eat too," said
Botham. Botham who grew up in Grand Bahama but moved away when
he was a teen, back to his parent's home in Canada, has always wanted
to return home. "I brought my wife Debbie here and showed her
the paradise I grew up in," he tells us. "It wasn't hard for me
to convince her to make the decision to return..."
"... the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain."
- Khalil Gibran
I was fortunate to have spent this week in Rome, en route to Switzerland. During this Italian sojourn, I visited numerous prominent historical attractions that many only read about in school books, view in movies or see in tourist brochures. During my entire stay in the Italian capital, I was frequently reminded of Khalil Gibran's observation that often we more deeply appreciate our own environment from a distance. Accordingly this week, we would like to Consider This... what are some of our reflections from Rome that help us to more fully appreciate the small country that we call The Bahamas?
Europe is very different from North America. And like the United States, the countries within Europe are as different from each other as are the different cultures, ethnicities, conventions and idiosyncrasies of the individual states that form the American union or even the different islands of The Bahamas.
Immediately upon arriving in Rome, the often expected difficulties that one could anticipate with border control were non-existent. There was no sense of immigration paranoia about foreigners that one sometimes encounters when traveling abroad. It was refreshing to experience such a welcoming and relaxed, almost nonchalant, vetting by immigration officers at the airport.
One of the earliest observations was that virtually all automobiles in Rome are very small - best characterized as either compact, mini or miniscule. The absence of large vehicles was extremely noticeable, as urban residents either use scooters as a primary means of transportation around the capital or the fairly reliable public transportation system of buses and trains. It is said that there are more scooters in Rome than automobiles, the result of both skyrocketing fuel costs combined with the ease of parking in public places.
One quickly appreciates that Italians are Euro-centric, with little concern about what's going on in the Americas. The majority of people I engaged about the state of affairs in Italy expressed a disappointment with the quality of Italian life since joining the European Union, primarily because of the adverse impact on the level of salary and wages and the replacement of the Italian lira with the euro in 2002.
Watching the news on television offered another perspective of and discernible difference in Italian life. Apart from the limited number of English-speaking channels in my hotel, it was obvious from the channels that were available that Italians are not inundated with CNN or other American media as we are in the Americas. Rather, Al Jazeera, Euronews and BBC World are viewed with greater regularity with those news services presenting a more balanced reporting of world news, again with greater interest and focus of what is taking place in Europe, Africa and Asia. For example, while scrolling the news channels, the latter broadcasts focused more on diverse international developments whereas CNN International, while reporting on selected international developments, provided more American news.
Notwithstanding claims about Italians' apathy to politics, I got the distinct impression that this is not a completely accurate assertion. The Italian Parliament, which is comprised of more than 600 deputies in the lower house of Parliament (the Camera of Deputies) and more than 300 senators, seems to be very active and engaged. While visiting the Italian Parliament, I observed several organized, albeit rancorous, demonstrations in front of the Camera of Deputies. I was also advised that this is a common occurrence, that Parliament meets regularly and that there are always organized demonstrations outside by Italian activists.
The church and history
There are certain realities that transcend national boundaries. Citizens here express disappointment about the level of taxes imposed by the Italian government, including personal and corporate taxes. There is also a value added tax (VAT) rate of 21 percent on goods and services (10 percent in restaurants), which some observe has significantly contributed to the high level of domestic prices. Another common feature of this society is the number of people seeking alms, although it appeared that more women engage in this activity than we are accustomed to seeing.
During a visit to Vatican City, one could only marvel at the enormous impact that the Catholic Church has always had on Italian culture. Historically, more than 16,000 people visit Vatican City daily, although since the election of Pope Francis in March, the level of daily visitors has increased to 25,000.
Although Rome has a population of four million, the streets of this city felt safe for walking, both day and night. Security in Rome is provided by a ubiquitous police force particularly in the city center, including regular uniformed officers, and the elite Carabineri. The regular army is even present in some places. Of course, the Swiss Guard protects Vatican City.
I visited the usual tourist attractions, including the Trevi Fountain, Piazza di Spagna (the Seven Steps), the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Castel St. Angelo, the Forum, the Coliseum, the Church of St. Peter and Paul in Chains, and the Vittoriano Monument - a large white marble edifice in Piazza Venezia, which was erected to commemorate the unification of Italy in 1861. Wherever you go, you will find that residents of Rome have a tremendous sense of national pride about the role that Rome has played in the history of civilization.
Italians have every reason to possess such pride, having regard for the enormously incalculable contributions that Rome has made to the development of politics, academics, culture, the arts, jurisprudence and civil society.
The resurgence of the appreciation for the importance of the Roman Empire and the Italian Renaissance is visible on an international scale as well. These time periods were recently featured in films beginning with the movie "Gladiator", other Hollywood productions of Dan Brown's "DaVinci Code" and "Angels and Demons" and recent TV series such as "Spartacus", "The Borgias" and DaVinci's "Demons".
Rome is a city of contradictions and ironies. During the Roman Empire, Rome led in the persecution of Christians, including the crucifixion and beheading of Sts. Peter and Paul, respectively, along with many other Christian martyrs, but it is also the city which ultimately became the center of the Christian church and the establishment of the Vatican as a separate and autonomous state and the seat of Catholicism.
It is also ironic that the some of the most beautiful churches in Rome were built with stones that were taken from the Coliseum, where Christians were executed, and from the pagan temples of the Forum where the early polytheistic Romans worshipped. It is equally ironic how many previously taboo pagan practices, rituals and customs were amalgamated or absorbed into the Christian church, particularly during the reign of Constantine, the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity.
Although we do not enjoy the millennia-long historical perspective of all that Rome has to offer the world, we in The Bahamas should also be proud of our accomplishments as a young country. From its earliest days, settlers both black and white demonstrated a robust resilience against great odds. They were able to survive by coaxing crops from the barren rocks of our islands. They withstood storms and starvation for centuries and created the vibrant society we call The Bahamas, complete with a rich culture, vigorous democracy and promising future. Certainly there are many exemplary episodes in Bahamian history that we can be as proud of as any Roman. All we have to do is make more of an effort to learn our own stories.
My recent visit to Rome provided not only a deeper understanding of the city that I visited nearly 20 years ago and of its contribution to humanity, but also a richer appreciation of Gibran's observation that "... the mountain to the climber is clearer from the plain."
o Philip C. Galanis is the managing partner of HLB Galanis & Co., Chartered Accountants, Forensic & Litigation Support Services. He served 15 years in Parliament. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Investment in restaurants and other tourist-related businesses that are not in hotels — long reserved for Bahamians — has been opened for foreign investment under the National Investment Policy.
Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham detailed amendments to the policy in the House of Assembly on Monday. Previous Hotel Encouragement Act amendments have allowed for restaurants and other tourist-related businesses in areas heavily frequented by tourists but not in hotels to be open to foreign investment, Ingraham said. However, an amendment to the National Investment Policy removes the restrictions against international investments in restaurants and entertainment facilities altogether.
By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
Producing higher quality dishes infused with a Bahamian flavour will enable this nation's hotel and restaurant industry to offset the impact of rising global food prices, organisers of a major food and beverage seminar said yesterday, enabling chefs to maintain their margins.
Frank Comito, executive vice-president of the Bahamas Hotel Association (BHA), one of the organisations sponsoring next month's 2011 Food, Flavour and Beverage Trends: Growing revenue and increasing customer traffic seminar, described as "very critical" the need to offset rising food prices by staying in touch with global consumer trends.
Speaking on behalf of BHA pre ...
Freeport, Grand Bahama Island - In
May 2010, the proprietors of Island Java located in Port Lucaya, began
operations of a new restaurant in the Port Lucaya Marketplace on Grand
Bahama Island. The restaurant is known as Mamadoo's Restaurant, or
Mamadoo's where local cuisine meets Bahamian creativity.
The Restaurant features a signature line of innovative Bahamian
inspired seafood and barbeque dishes, with gourmet pizzas/flat
bread along with fruit infused vodka like sappa dilly, love vine, guava,
mango and tamarind...
With an announcement on Baha Mar's casino partner soon to come, executives assert moves to make official its partnership with three respected hotel brands has already improved the country's cachet in the industry.
The $3.4 billion Cable Beach mega resort recently inked agreements with Hyatt Hotels, Morgans Hotel Group and the Rosewood Hotels management companies to operate the various hotels that will be constructed on the property.
They are deals, said vice president of administration and external affairs Robert Sands, that bode well for the country's image as a top tourism destination.
"It gives The Bahamas depth and an advantage in terms of best in class brands," he told Guardian Business yesterday. "Also, it further exposes The Bahamas as an enviable tourism destination."
Indeed, partnering with such brands may be the kind of boost this nation needs to maintain its tourism edge in the region, where competition has increased in recent years. As a global recession slashed disposable visitor spend, tourists have become discerning about value for their dollar, with hotel brands weighing heavily into travelers' decisions.
Having those kinds of well-known brands is especially important in a market like Nassau/Paradise Island where questions remain about market oversaturation in the mega resort category.
Various hotel executives, however, have assured that the market will be able to accommodate the addition of new rooms. Valued at $3.4 billion, Baha Mar will include almost 3,500 rooms and residences, the largest casino in the Caribbean, the largest convention center in The Bahamas, a Jack Nicklaus signature golf course, three spas, a 20-acre eco-water park, multiple restaurants, high-end retail and entertainment venues, and will be situated along a half-mile of uninterrupted pristine beachfront. Baha Mar represents the largest single-phase resort ever developed in the Caribbean, and is currently the largest project under development in North America.
"Our hotel partners have embraced the vision of Baha Mar, which is to capture the true spirit of the region's rich heritage of African, European and Caribbean influences while delivering the very highest levels of quality and service," Sarkis Izmirlian, Baha Mar's chairman and CEO said recently in a press statement. "Shifting the sands of global tourism Baha Mar represents a bold vision, the largest in the history of the Caribbean, and marks the resurgence of an area known as The Bahamian Riviera. The successful completion of our management agreements with Hyatt, Morgans and Rosewood is a significant milestone for Baha Mar as we continue to turn this vision into a reality.
"All three of these hotel groups have been great partners with us throughout this process, and their ability to work together to bring Baha Mar's vision to reality has been amazing," said Don Robinson, president of Baha Mar. "Our strategy to work with multiple, best-in-class brands gives Baha Mar the opportunity to feature the very finest brand offerings for each of our different high-end hotel segments."
Hyatt Hotels Corporation is a global hospitality company with a portfolio of 445 properties on five continents, operating under the Hyatt, Park Hyatt, Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Andaz, Hyatt Place, and Hyatt Summerfield Suites brands names.
Morgans Hotel Group has a history of revolutionizing the hospitality industry with innovative lodging concepts characterized by design-centric ambiance and timeless elegance. It is well known for its Delano and Shore Club resorts in Miami, the Mondrian in Los Angeles, Miami and New York, the St. Martin's Lane and Sanderson properties in London, and the Morgans, Hudson and Royalton hotels in New York City.
Rosewood Hotels & Resorts has a long and successful history of managing exclusive, luxury properties, including three award-winning resorts in the Caribbean. In addition, Rosewood has several of America's most exclusive city hotels, including the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, and The Carlyle, a Rosewood hotel in New York City.
Small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in The Bahamas are being encouraged to explore opportunities in the tourism industry, with CARICOM officials arguing it offers personal and national benefits.
"The SMEs within tourism really make the product," said Allyson Francis, trade in services specialist with CARICOM. "When we highlight the tourism sector, we're not only talking about persons related to tourism but all tour operators and tour guides, restaurants, people with dive fishing. . . it's not all about the sun, sea and sand and if you don't have these activities, persons may not even be attracted to the destination.
"These persons are already critical in the whole development of the tourism product."
It's a message she hopes to drive home with industry insiders yesterday at the first Regional Seminar on Tourism - SMEs and Tourism Development in the Caribbean Region. Francis said the mindset of tourism centering around only hotels should be changed and that the tourism product will only become more competitive with more projects outside of the hotel doors.
The argument has been made several times in the nation, but analysts insist it still remains relevant. Still, Francis notes challenges that many businesses face with trying to fill the void in terms of offerings.
"From a regional stand point, the issue there is financing available that they are not fully aware of," she added. "Even if they are aware of financing, the mechanisms or the procedures they have to go through to access the financing are difficult.
"It's not a Bahamian issue, it's a regional issue in terms of accessing funding that is available."
She encouraged businesses to make better use of support organizations like the Bahamas Chamber of Commerce and Employers Confederation, that have access to information. She said they also play a critical role in growing SME involvement in the tourism industry.
Despite the decision of restaurant chain Sbarro to file for bankruptcy this week in the United States, and business in The Bahamas dropping by 50 percent over the past five years, sales at the local restaurants are looking up, according to the brand's Managing Director Charlton Knowles.
He confirmed to Guardian Business that sales "have been climbing every month" within the last year for the company.
"While it's unfortunate what's happening in the U.S., that will not impact our business in any way here in The Bahamas," he explained.
"Sales have been encouraging but it's not definitely at the levels they were prior to the recession. We're still a long way from achieving those numbers.
Between 2008 and 2013, sales dropped by about 50 percent. But now, we are starting to see sales climb back up. It has been gradually going up from year to year. From 2013 to 2014, sales are coming back. For us, sales have been climbing every month since the new board of directors was put in place a year ago."
Knowles believes a full economic turnaround for the pizza eatery will depend on the success of the multibillion-dollar Baha Mar project, the impact it will have on the Bahamian economy and the access that travelers will have to disposable income.
On Monday, Sbarro filed for Chapter 11-bankruptcy protection. According to court filings, the pizza chain and its affiliates have between $100 million and $500 million in debt. It is the second time the company has filed for bankruptcy in less than three years. Sbarro had filed back in 2011 and was working its way out of debt.
The franchise has four locations locally: Downtown, in the Mall at Marathon, on Cable Beach and Carmichael Road, with 68 employees.
"Our company is a separate holding company from the U.S. chain," he said.
"We're not affected by what's going on at the Sbarro corporation. That's a U.S. affair and not a Bahamian affair. Now had we had been corporate owned like the one in the U.S., their operations would have impacted us here in The Bahamas. But that's not the case because we are operating independently."
Sbarro, including franchises, has more than 1,000 locations in 45 countries. The chain opened its first location in Brooklyn in 1956.
During Formula One, whether it be Shanghai, Montreal or Abu Dhabi, the Paddock Club is synonymous with more than a great view of the race. It's also a place for high-flyers in the business and racing scene to meet, talk cars and perhaps do a little business.
David McLaughlin, the UK Event Director for Bahamas Speed Week, doesn't expect to duplicate the Formula One experience.
But he intends on coming pretty close.
"It's a model that works for Formula One," he said. "It's business to business, and we've had some tremendous interest so far."
As part of Bahamas Speed Week, running from November 30 until December 4, event organizers have begun to sell booths in the Paddock Club to stimulate sponsorship and business - starting at $10,000 a pop.
While the driving force behind the event is tourism, McLaughlin said the Paddock Club, located in the center of a 1.1 mile temporary racetrack at Arawak Cay, will be a buzzing hive of corporate activity, giving participants a chance to forge contacts among elite players in the business world.
When it was an annual event in The Bahamas from 1954 to 1966, Bahamas Speed Week attracted some
of the whos-who in the racecar and celebrity scene.
It's revival promises to be a return to this former glory.
Organizers expect around $100 million worth of racecars to arrive on Nassau's shores in what should be a massive boom for the tourism industry.
Sir Stirling Moss, the legendary Formula One driver, will serve as patron to the event's much-anticipated revival, and dozens of high-end businessmen and racecar enthusiasts will be joining him in the pits.
The goal, according to Jimmie Lowe, the event's president, is to fill between 4,000 and 5,000 hotel rooms as a direct result of Bahamas Speed Week. Restaurants and retail centers throughout the island are also expected to benefit.
McLaughlin said the focus of Bahamas Week Speed is on tourism, and of course, the fine pieces of machinery. But as in any high-level racing event, business is business, and the Paddock Club will serve as the social - and corporate - nerve center.
"They'll have a captive audience," McLaughlin pointed out. "There is a huge arena to talk cars and talk business."
So far, the response has been impressive.
Carlo Milano, Graycliff and the Grand Bahama Port Authority are just a few of the major players that have stepped up to the sponsorship plate.
For $10,000, businesses can snap up a 20-by-20 foot booth, he said.
There are a number of additional updates and options available, including bronze, silver, gold and platinum packages. At a varying scale of price, these classifications give participants access to different perks and services, such as invitations to the gala, VIP treatment and advertising space in the event program.
EFG International has also purchased a booth in the Paddock Club, and Shell Oil, McLaughlin added, has stepped up as the event's official oil and gas supplier.
Lowe said the Grand Bahama Port Authority's decision to purchase a bronze package is a testament to their push for greater visibility to the visiting crowd.
"They want to promote themselves, perhaps throw in a few free tips and attract people to visit afterwards," he explained.
These business and corporations join a growing list of sponsors for a weekend starting to pick up some momentum.
Last week, Guardian Business reported that Bahamas Speed Week is currently mulling over the possibility of building an official racetrack for subsequent events. Talks are expected to begin soon between the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture and the Ministry of Tourism.
"This is what we envision going forward," Lowe said earlier.
"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."
Pictet Bank - the official sponsor of the gala banquet and Auction of Promises - is one of the world's leasing international private financial institutions with a presence in 19 countries.
Tickets for Bahamas Speed Week will go on sale at the end of this week.
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."
I make the following comments as a concerned Exumian who is tired of non-Exumians trying to stop the growth and progress of the Island.
It appears that some PLP politicians in their quest for power are prepared to jeopardize the future of the people of Exuma by frustrating the largest single private employer on the island. They are treating Sandals, which is responsible for the livelihood of hundreds of Exumians and their families, as though it is not appreciated in our country.
The truth is that Sandals Emerald Bay has provided a safety net for many people on the island whose hopes were dashed when the Four Seasons hotel closed.
When Sandals came on the scene most of the commercial airlines had terminated their services even before the departure of Four Seasons, the previous operator.
Today, after just 12 months of operations, Sandals has been able to attract carriers such as Air Canada, Continental Connections, American Eagle, US Air, Delta and the domestic carriers Bahamasair, SkyBahamas and Western Airlines.
Sandals has also honored the existing agreements with Exuma Transit for the transportation of guests.
The charge of poor treatment of its employees by the hotel is totally false as is the complaint about the presence of Jamaicans on the property.
Sandals is a Jamaican investor with core expertise provided by Jamaicans who are hardworking people with good work attitudes worthy of emulation.
The fact is that as a major Caribbean and International hotel chain, Sandals employs Bahamians in a number of its hotels in its host countries including the Turks & Caicos, St. Lucia, Antigua and Jamaica.
Interestingly, no mention has been made of the many foreign nationals who worked with the former Four Seasons hotel and who treated Bahamian workers so badly. I don't recall any complaint being made about them.
As far as the charge of under-payment of staff is concerned, the government of The Bahamas has established a minimum wage. Any employer who pays workers below the minimum is in breach of the law. Anyone with proof that this is the case at Emerald Bay, should report the matter to the Department of Labour.
Indeed, the staff of the hotel should be made to understand that the property can only pay what it can afford and that higher wages could mean less staff and not so stable employment.
In any given interaction of people there will be problems; even in churches. However, I am satisfied that the resort is doing much more than its predecessor in trying to better relations with all its public.
In recent times, the hotel has been managed by some of the finest professionals of Sandals: Jeremy Mutton and Patrick Drake.
Significant efforts have been made in introducing a wide range of programs to train and upgrade staff, foster professionalism, enhance staff morale and reach out to the community and business sectors.
The hotel has introduced a wide range of programs to address training and personal development at every level, as well as entry level certification for school leavers in hospitality training and the introduction of an apprenticeship program.
In addition, there are numerous programs to enrich and enhance the everyday life of workers including luncheons, breakfasts, bingos and other recreational activities as well as access to a barber shop which provides concessionary rates to employees.
Through the Sandals Foundation, several projects are helping to transform schools and civic amenities on the island in an unprecedented manner.
For the first time in the history of Exuma, the island is blessed with a hotel choir which is a big hit whenever it appears at local churches and civic functions.
Since the acquisition of the hotel, millions of dollars have been spent on renovation and upgrading facilities, including the addition of 62 rooms, thereby increasing the capacity of the resort from 183 rooms to 245 rooms. Also, some 60 additional persons have received employment as a result of this project.
In addition, three more restaurants are to be built, providing employment for many more people.
In the current climate of unemployment in Exuma, anyone responsible for providing jobs for over 500 permanent and 100 construction workers ought to be welcomed and respected by everyone.
I believe Exumians need to examine the situation very carefully and not be fooled. They should never forget the trauma and loss of hope that came with the announcement of the closure of Four Seasons Hotel. Indeed, Exumians should be very wary of persons, who for selfish political reasons, are trying to destroy their future and the growth and stability that Sandals has brought to this Island.
I can testify that the chairman of Sandals and his entire staff have always extended a hand of friendship to the Member of Parliament for Exuma, Anthony Moss.
It is an indictment on Moss that he has failed to accept invitations he has received from a major investor in his constituency whose operations have impacted the lives, livelihood and future of so many of his constituents.
Former island administrator
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.
As the Thanksgiving holiday looms, a local religious leader has urged Bahamians not to get carried away with the spirit of the North American holiday but to use the time to celebrate Bahamian traditions and history.
In a statement released this week, Reverend Canon Sebastian Campbell, rector of St. Gregory's Anglican Church, took issue with the fact that many Bahamians celebrate Thanksgiving, teach its history in public schools and take part in related feasts. He urged Bahamians to ignore the North American "cultural invasion" and focus on local customs and history during this time.
"Let us cut to the chase," Campbell said. "The average Bahamian is brainwashed and, or, mis-educated when referring to this time of the year simply as Thanksgiving.
"This is not America; we've had a cultural invasion and are ignorant to it. Our [public] schools do a whole lot of mental damage this time of the year that, if not checked, will be a lever in the continued transplanting of our Bahamian cultural heritage.
"I have sat through many a school assembly and endured teachers pontificating on the pilgrim fathers, and then to reinforce this with our impressionable children doing skits and songs on the first Thanksgiving and it's ongoing development and influence on life, as though all this is a part of our Bahamian history which they assert we should justifiably celebrate. We have a case here of the blind leading the blind."
Campbell also said more focus should be placed on local cuisine during celebrations and lamented the fact that American fast food has permeated Bahamian culture, sometimes pushing local restaurants out of the market.
"The cultural onslaught invades further at the level of our stomach," he said.
"It is in our schools; after these thanksgiving assemblies teachers barricade themselves to gobble down the American dishes of ham, turkey, pumpkin pie, etc. This behavior is an insult to our cultural heritage, and to our good and gracious God who has made us uniquely Bahamian.
"We are a peculiar people with peculiar blessings, a peculiar heritage and thus a peculiar history. Next to no leadership comes from anywhere in this cultural onslaught."
The end of November is traditionally a time to celebrate the harvest, Campbell said, as he urged Bahamians to use the time to give thanks for the blessings God has bestowed on the country.
"We Bahamians must show our thankfulness to God for his blessings on us as Bahamians. We must count our blessings. We are no celebrants of ham and turkey. This is American. Stop trying to be that which we are not.
"God has blessed us with Long Island mutton, wild boar from Inagua, Andros crab, grouper and conch from our water. Can we show appreciation for Cat Island flour cake and Eleuthera pineapple, even when turned upside down? Yes, and good old peas soup n' dough seasoned with dry conch and salt beef. Oh yes, by now we have the message. We wash all that down with good old switcher or sky juice. Depending on our religious background, we can spice up these drinks even further."
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: ...
The Bahamas has been shut out from exporting its multi-million dollar Lobster Tail trade to the European Union (EU) for six months now, with the Government and fisheries sector working feverishly to put a new catch certificate requirement in place before the season opens again in just under one month.
Representatives of the fisheries sector told Tribune Business yesterday this was key to restarting trade, while adhering to the Marine Stewardship Council's (MSC) - the world's leading
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 ...
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For the investors in John Watling's Distillery, this week's opening is quite literately five years in the making.
Armed with only an idea, Pepin Argamasilla and Jose Portuondo started aging their premier Buena Vista Rum while laying the foundation for a new attraction in historic Nassau. Those wooden barrels will soon be cracked open and ready for the market as investors finally lift the curtain on the multimillion-dollar distillery.
"I think Bahamians and tourists have been waiting for a product and experience like this," Argamasilla said. "This process began five years ago and we have come full circle. We'll be open this week to tourist and locals, although we're still in the process of working out the kinks."
John Watling's Distillery appears well on its way to becoming a well-oiled machine.
A tour with Guardian Business revealed that signs of construction are melting away at the historic estate. Construction crews are placing the final touches on what has been described as a "living museum".
Argamasilla told Guardian Business that the estate boasts a number of antiques and portraits. While some of the memorabilia was already on site, several pieces of art have been donated by the property's past owners or by prominent Bahamians.
Tourists and locals are invited to take an interactive tour free of charge, whereby they can learn the history of the estate and watch the actual rum-making process. The crowds eventually spill out into an extensive gift shop and finally a full bar where guests can order several varieties of homegrown rum. Vodka and gin are also expected to come on stream in the coming months.
The attraction currently employs more than 20 Bahamians, with up to 30 positions expected by the time it starts operating at full steam.
Investors have been adamant in restoring the site so it reflects 18th century living. The product itself is produced entirely by hand without the use of machinery. Meanwhile, the estate is a "cold spot", in the sense that no wireless Internet signals or technological elements are on site. Even wires and cash registers have been hidden from view.
"Everything is by hand. You don't just push a button here. It is by Bahamian hands," Argamasilla said.
So far, local businesses have responded to the authentic approach.
According to management, John Watling's has already established 50 accounts or point of distribution, including restaurants, hotels and liquor stores.
The attraction is now producing around 50 cases per day, each containing six bottles. The goal is to get that production up to at least 52 cases per day, according to Mario Portuondo, managing partner and director of sales and marketing.
Investors hope John Watling's will be a hit by filing a void of activities and tours that celebrate the nation's rich heritage. The attraction's opening comes months after Graycliff opened its interactive chocolate factory just down the street. These two destinations combined are attempting to offer a new alternative to Bay Street and the straw market experience.
Argamasilla said John Watling's is working with a number of tour operators to funnel tourists to the estate. Marketing campaigns are planned for Festival Place where tourists disembark from cruise ships.
Interest has already been peeked from companies overseas.
"We will start with the U.S. The first step is to get the production going, which we have done. Now we are getting the site ready for tourism and it should take three months or so to iron out any kinks," he told Guardian Business. "I can tell you we already have interest though from Europe, Scandinavia and other places."
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.
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."