Management of the Marriott Hotel now has full access to the entire Kingston property.
This was after a court order in December which allowed the changing of the locks in the unfinished annex of the facilities where a number of Chinese workers from the contractor, Shanghai Construction Group (SCG), had been squatting since before 2015.
Officials of the state-controlled hotel disclosed that last year a court ordered the Chinese workers to vacate the property. However, the workers, about five of them, refused to leave.
They were claiming several hundreds of millions of dollars of outstanding payments for SCG.
They had chained the gate and doors leading to the annex. Inside, the workers were sleeping, had a kitchen and were washing clothes, in an area that offered a breathtaking view of the Atlantic Ocean. It was located a stone’s throw from some luxurious rooms.
A court in December granted an order allowing the locks to the annex to be changed.
The annex was supposed to house the entertainment section of the hotel, including a casino, restaurant, and nightclub.
In the feasibility study of the hotel, the section was expected to bring more revenues into the hotel, helping to realize profitability.
As it is now, even if all the 197 rooms are filled, it would be difficult to realise a profit without the entertainment facility in operations, as there is a hefty syndicated loan at Republic Bank to be repaid.
Government has been forced to take over the payments which amount to about US$2.4M ($500M) every year. The debts as of last year, which were taken over by Government, was about US$17M.
It will be recalled that the hotel was opened in early 2015.
But SCG and the Atlantic Hotel Inc. (AHI), the state-controlled company which owns the facilities, were locked in a battle over defects and outstanding payments.
There have been a number of proposals to run the entertainment complex, including from Suriname and reportedly one from the Princess Group which runs the lone casino in Providence.
According to officials close to the hotel, over the last few months, management was forced to conduct several emergency works, including to the tiles in the kitchen and the palm trees which were causing damage.
The pool area was also proving a problem with low quality tiles blamed.
The hotel reportedly used some money owed to the contractor to fix some of the defects.
According to officials, the squatting of the Chinese workers had affected prospective bidders who have been unable to inspect the premises, a prerequisite for the submission of proposals.
The extension for deadline for submissions, one of several, was January 31, 2018.
Officials said that four applications to operate a casino have been received, with the evaluations to start shortly.
SCG, a company owned by the Chinese government, had received a contract in 2011 to build the hotel, which on paper, cost over US$51M. However, estimates by critics of the project, had tagged real costs to be over US$80M.
SCG was insisting that it was owed between US$4M and US$5M for works done. Government in January last year, however, insisted that the figure was more likely over US$800,000.
Business has improved considerably with a number of events providing a major boost to revenues and its restaurant section doing better.
But still, the hotel needs the annex with its casino, to start to turn a profit.
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