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What landlord refuses to meet with its tenant? – Lawyer for hotel

What landlord refuses to meet with its tenant? – Lawyer for hotel

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Kay Bacchus-Baptiste, the lawyer for Ann Joshua, the operator of The Cobblestone Inn, is considering seeking redress from the court, given the refusal of the owners of the property to meet with her and her client.

Bacchus-Baptiste said yesterday that she wrote to National Properties Ltd (NPL) asking for a meeting and they refused without stating a reason.

“I wrote them again, urging them to reconsider not having a meeting because it makes no sense. What can they fear having a meeting with the tenant? What kind of landlord refuses having a meeting with their tenant? I urged them and said that if they didn’t, we will have to consider seeking redress from the court. I have not had a response, not even an acknowledgement of my email,” Bacchus-Baptiste said via telephone to SEARCHLIGHT yesterday morning.{{more}}

However, Harold Dougan, general manager of the NPL, told SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday that in the opinion of the NPL, there is nothing to discuss.

“…As far as we understood, they wanted to discuss the expressions of interest, but we think in the advertisement, the thing is straightforward and clear cut….What is difficult about what is mentioned in there?”

Joshua, who has been operating The Cobblestone Inn for the last 30 years, was on July 12 served with a ‘Notice to Quit’ the premises by September 30, 2016, by solicitor for the NPL Grahame Bollers. Following this, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves said that the Government had decided that, in the interest of transparency and proper development of that property and other government property, there should be an open tendering process, but first, the relationship with Joshua must be ended legally.

On July 29, the NPL published in local newspapers an “Invitation for Expression of Interest for the Leasing of Property to Operate and Manage” the Cobblestone Inn Hotel. Interested persons have been given until today, August 12 at 4 p.m. to submit their “Expressions of Interest”.

Bacchus-Baptiste, in an interview on the AM Mayhem programme on Hot 97.1 FM last Tuesday, described the Expressions of Interest published by the NPL in the newspapers as “vague” and “insubstantial”, adding that she is “not so sure what the legal effect is”.

The lawyer told SEARCHLIGHT yesterday that by going to court, her client can seek an injunction to have the court overturn NPL’s’ “unreasonable decision”. She, however, said despite that option, her client may also consider making a bid to retain lease of the property.

Among other things, the notice for the “Expressions of Interest” said “the property, which does not include the space occupied by the business known as Basil’s Bar, occupies some eleven thousand, six hundred and twenty-nine (11,629) square feet of prime floor space.”

Bacchus-Baptiste said that the fact that the notice did not include Basil’s Bar also says a lot about the unfairness with which Joshua is being treated.

Basil’s Bar, which is also located in the Cobblestone Inn building is operated by Basil Charles.

“It is entirely unfair from a commercial standpoint, from a legal standpoint, from the public interest standpoint; its makes absolutely no sense.

“The only thing I can see is that there is some real or apparent bias, nothing else makes sense with this decision. You don’t put a tenant out who has built a business from scratch and it has become an icon for St Vincent and the Grenadines, even the Caribbean, to put in a novice. Why would you want to do that? It makes no sense and to say it is because a tender was not put out before is erroneous, because it was put out to tender and Miss Joshua and Basil Charles won the bid,” said Bacchus-Baptiste.

She added, “How fair could it be to put the person that has the dominant tenancy out and retain the one with the lease tenancy who is also in the same position as she was, in terms of owing some rent, I’m told and in terms of not having a long lease?

“It doesn’t make no sense to me and those questions need to be asked. What is it that Miss Joshua has done that is causing the National Properties to take such a step and refusing to even sit down and have a meeting with her?”

The veteran lawyer stressed that in her opinion, “it seems to me as it is something political, especially based on comments that I’m told were made, comments which we have persons willing to swear to in affidavits.”

Dougan, the general manager of the NPL, however, told SEARCHLIGHT that after the pre-qualification stage, the next step is to shortlist those who qualify, then provide to them the terms in which they should put in a bid.

He assured that the entire process should not take very long. “We intend for it to be completed in short order.”

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