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We can’t survive without Chill Spot – co-owner

We can’t survive without Chill Spot – co-owner

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One of the co-owners of the Chill Spot Bar & Grill says she’s shocked and upset by the action taken by the Physical Planning and Development Board this week.

Maferne Mayers-Oliver told SEARCHLIGHT that she and her husband Lance Oliver had appealed the cease and desist order issued by the Physical Planning and Development Board and had no idea that their business would have been demolished before they appeared before a tribunal.

“I’m feeling several different emotions. I’m first off in shock, I’m sad, I’m hurt, I’m mad,” said Mayers-Oliver on Wednesday as demolition men hired by the Physical Planning Unit tore down the canopy of her Arnos Vale business.{{more}}

Mayers-Oliver, a lawyer by profession said that they had appealed the cease and desist order after the Physical Planning and Development Board gave the establishment 14 days from September 2 to stop business.

The proprietor said she and her husband are being guided by Queen’s Counsel Parnel Campbell, and in keeping with the Physical Planning and Development Act, they appealed to the Minister of Physical Planning and copied the correspondence to different departments.

“We really thought that the process would take place and we would have been heard before we reached to this stage. Everybody, including the workers have been asking us what’s the next step. I’m tired; I have been fighting three years back and forth and I’m physically and mentally drained,” stressed Mayers-Oliver who said the 26 employees attached to the restaurant are now unemployed.

She said that the next step will probably be to seek an injunction in the High Court, but she is wondering if they should really bother.

The business woman said that they are of the opinion that the Physical Planning Unit is not following the Act in that the rules do not state specifically that they have to apply for a special license to run a restaurant.

“We never obtained permission specifically for Chill Spot, but we had a class, for commercial use and normally, there is nowhere in the Act that specifies that you have to get a change of use from one commercial to the next,” said Mayers-Oliver.

She also disclosed that on Wednesday, Physical Planning Officer Shelford Stowe told her that the power of the Board is wide and it could demand that the business submit a request for change of use.

“I had a restaurant in Kingstown for several years and we never had change of use. I don’t know if is because it was Kingstown and I asked Stowe about this and he said they give and take for Kingstown. I didn’t think so initially, but when they came and they served us the order to close, we appealed which is within our rights under the Town and Country Planning Act; we appealed and the Act states that once you appeal you are supposed to go before a tribunal and even the order they served on us states, section five or paragraph five, stated that the order is to be suspended until the appeal was heard at the tribunal and it was never done,” stressed Mayers-Oliver.

She said that throughout the entire fiasco, there was dialogue between them and the Planning Unit and they submitted plans to the planning board in April 2015. These plans were denied in June 2015, but according to Mayers-Oliver, they were not notified of the denial until June 2016 when her husband went into the planning department.

“We were calling and writing for guidance; we have all our letters and we never got any response at all to say anything. We only knew a year after, when we physically went in there and Stowe appeared to be shocked when he learnt that the document was not given to us,” explained the proprietor.

She said that they were in the process of submitting new documents and were waiting on a survey plan of the area, and also noted that a committee was set up last year and there was talk that they did not go to a meeting that was called to discuss the issues.

Mayers-Oliver said that when the meeting was called in 2015, she was away on vacation and her husband who was still in the country had already made plans to join the family overseas and was not able to go to the meeting. Two representatives of Chill Spot attended the meeting and according to Mayers-Oliver, the committee visited Arnos Vale six months after and said that they would make a report.

“They never said anything negative and we were waiting on a report from the committee…so this is just so shocking.”

Mayers-Oliver noted that in August, her husband was written to, demanding that he come to a meeting, so he cancelled his vacation plans to do so.

“…is like they bullied Lance to the meeting…out of the meeting we thought that we were going to be given recommendations, not close us down,” stressed Mayers-Oliver.

She said they were aware of some the issues and as a result resolved them.

“In any development, traffic comes; Greaves and Massy (supermarkets) cause this massive traffic every afternoon. So what do we do? Should Planning close down Greaves and Massy? I don’t think that it is much of a traffic, but the residents may think it’s a big inconvenience, so we went and leased this plot of land nearby at a high price trying to comply.”

She added that the music on a Friday night used to be loud, but changes to the speakers were made and the speakers were kept inside.

“We really tried our best to cooperate and comply.”

She noted that the smoke was another issue, but they were advised by someone from the Public Health Department to transfer the grilling to the roof of the Rent and Drive establishment, which they did.

Mayers-Oliver noted that with the closing of Chill Spot, they are going to have to make cuts in their other businesses also.

“We can’t survive without it, we definitely have to make some serious changes. Some of the staff usually work at Chill Spot that work in the other business so we are going to have to cut staff.”

She said that they have been banned from selling food and while persons are asking them to relocate, that is easier said than done because of the cost.

“Who is going to lend us money at this stage to move to another location?”, asked Mayers-Oliver who is thinking about going to court.

“I’m a lawyer so I know how the system operates, it takes a lot of time and money and even if you win, couple years down the road, we are still going to be losers,… and win in what way?”

She said that if they win in court and are allowed to continue and are awarded damages, that could be years away. She stressed that that the employees want them to fight and do whatever it takes to continue the business. “This is their bread and only income. It will be rough for me and Lance and the economy is really tough right now and this business was really helping us with some of our debts and I guess we will be able to probably survive, I mean maybe, who knows, maybe we relocate to another country or something, but the employees.” (LC)

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