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Friendship Bay Hotel in receivership – Workers in limbo

Friendship Bay Hotel in receivership – Workers in limbo

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Thirty-five workers at The Friendship Bay Hotel, Bequia, will spend this weekend in a state of limbo as they face the prospect of being out of their jobs.{{more}}

They will know their fate by next Tuesday when Lars and Margaret Abrahamsson, owners of the establishment, meet with the staff.

This new development stems from the hotel being placed under receivership as of Thursday, April 22, 2010, for defaulting on a loan.

“It’s not bankruptcy or anything. It’s just a dispute over the payment of the loan which is secured by brick and mortar,” said Lars to SEARCHLIGHT in an exclusive interview at Jack’s Bar, another establishment he manages on Bequia.

“Nothing was wrong with the operations,” stated Lars, who has operated the Friendship Bay Hotel for the past 19 years.

Lars disclosed that he was in the middle of negotiations with the lenders and was due to repay the loan in the next few weeks when they placed his property under receivership. Instead of working along with him and his wife, he said the lender chose to appoint a receiver.

The Friendship Bay Hotel is estimated to be valued in the millions of dollars, as it is located on prime property that is boundaried with a beautiful white sand beach.

Lars promised that the staff will be paid for one month and efforts will be made to find alternative work for them.

On Friday, April 23, 2010, three receivers of Roy Bailey of Ernst & Young in the Cayman Islands and Guardsman security took control of the premises.

This was confirmed by head of the team of receivers, Claire Loebell, who spoke to SEARCHLIGHT along with the two other receivers on the team, Ishmel DaSilva and James Turner.

SEARCHLIGHT understands that the hotel’s guests, as well as management and staff, were asked by the receivers to leave the property.

Loebell told SEARCHLIGHT at the moment the receivers cannot allow the business to continue to trade from the property because their duty is to secure the brick and mortar.

“We are now going to go through a process whereby we can actually sell the property or come to some sort of arrangement whereby we can repay the money,” said Loebell.

She stated there is an outstanding loan that is in default, and in accordance with the mortgage agreement, the lender is entitled to appoint a receiver.

There is some level of hope for the Abrahamssons. Loebell stated that if they can demonstrate ownership of items in the property, such as furniture, etc., they can take them away.

When asked if the Abrahamssons have a chance of bringing the situation to an amicable outcome, Loebell said: “The receiver is now dealing with the property. So any deal with the property will have to be negotiated with the receiver.”

The receivers also used the opportunity to make it clear that because the property is under receivership, locals who accessed the property as a route to their various destinations will no longer be able to do so. Loebell stressed this issue had already been discussed with Deputy Director of Grenadines Affairs, Herman Belmar, in a meeting.

An employee of the Friendship Bay Hotel who prefers to remain anonymous told SEARCHLIGHT that having worked with the establishment for over 10 years, it is sad to see the business in this predicament.

The longstanding worker disclosed that at a meeting held with the hotel’s management and staff at Jack’s Bar on Tuesday afternoon, some workers expressed mixed emotions.

SEARCHLIGHT was told that while some of the employees empathized with the hotel’s founders, others are concerned about their benefits and it was suggested that they visit the Labour Department. Others agreed that they would wait on the outcome of Tuesday’s meeting before taking any action.

Meanwhile, the Abrahamssons have another challenge on their hands. Last week they had to relocate their guests to another resort, and now they will have to find alternative accommodation for guests who had already made bookings.

Lars told SEARCHLIGHT preparations are being made in Grenada to host some of his guests, while others opted not to travel after he explained the situation to them.