By NEIL HARTNELL
Tribune Business Editor
An entrepreneur yesterday slammed the Bimini Bay Resort’s original developers for demolishing his $1 million Beach Club investment, and said: “This would never, ever be tolerated anywhere else in the world.”
Garrick Edwards, the entertainment owner/promoter behind the Sakara Beach Club, told Tribune Business that RAV Bahamas’ decision to bulldoze the property in the early morning hours of July 18, 2013, had left 15 Biminites out of work.
Disclosing that the situation had left him “in danger of losing my home in Delray Beach” and being unable to provide for his family, Mr Edwards accused Bimini Bay’s developers of “wiping out the livelihoods” of his staff.
He added that Sakara Beach Club’s demolition occurred during a time when both parties were awaiting a ruling from Chief Justice Sir Michael Barnett on their dispute - a matter that the Club ultimately won.
Describing the situation as “mind blowing”, Mr Edwards said the Royal Bahamas Police Force (RBPF) seemed reluctant to-date to investigate what he argued was “a criminal act”, and said: “I want justice”.
Resorts World (Bimini) spokesperson, Michelle Malcolm, declined to comment on the Sakara Beach Club situation, saying the matter concerned Bimini Bay’s original developers, RAV Bahamas and the Miami-based Capo Group.
Rafael Reyes, RAV Bahamas’ vice-president and Mr Capo’s son-in-law, who Mr Edwards accused of giving the orders to demolish the Sakara Beach Club, told this newspaper he was in a meeting when contacted.
When told about the nature of the call, he replied: “I’d be interested to know what he’s [Mr Edwards] saying.”
He told Tribune Business to call back at 5.30pm, and when this newspaper did, his assistant said he was in another meeting. A message left for Mr Reyes was not returned before press time last night.
Detailing the relationship between himself and RAV Bahamas/Bimini Bay, Mr Edwards said he was first brought to the resort property in 2011 by Mr Reyes, whom he knew as someone who visited his nightclubs in Miami.
Mr Reyes, he added, wanted “advice” on how to build up Bimini Bay’s entertainment side. “I said they needed a European-style beach club, as this would help them to sell real estate,” Mr Edwards said.
“I said: ‘This is what people gravitate to; it’s a great marketing tool’. I invested in what I thought was going to be the potential, and everything I anticipate has happened.”
Mr Edwards said he and RAV Bahamas worked out a deal where he would lease a portion of land from Bimini Bay, and be responsible for - and have the exclusive rights to - providing the beach entertainment and food and beverages, via a beach club.
He gave RAV Bahamas funds, which the Bimini Bay owner would use to construct the Sakara Beach Club. This, though, was where he alleged his problems started.
Mr Edwards said that after 18 months, “only a fraction” of the Beach Club had been built, and he did not even have a working kitchen.
Business was “very sporadic”, and when questioned about the construction issues, Mr Reyes “was crying to me, telling me how broke they are”.
Mr Edwards added that in the absence of a properly functioning Point of Sale system, “80 per cent” of Sakara’s revenue for that first 18 months had to go through Bimini Bay’s payments system, using room/payment cards and credit cards.
Yet he alleged that Sakara Beach Club received almost none of the revenue due to it, getting just one cheque in 18 months.
And, when he e-mailed Bimini Bay’s accountants, he was told: ‘We know we owe you money, but we’re having cash flow issues. You’ll have to stand in line with all the other vendors.’
“It took me six months to get my first accounting report from them, and I couldn’t get a back-up system,” Mr Edwards told Tribune Business. “It got to the point where my own partners threatened to sue me, not RAV Bahamas. I had to give shares of mine to keep a partner happy.”
An arrangement for Sakara to use Bimini Bay management and staff failed to work, and Mr Edwards added: “I said to Ralph in March: ‘I can’t do this any more.
“I took back control of the Beach Club with my staff and management. I put my staff in place,15, all Biminites.”
He suggested to RAV Bahamas that he pay for Sakara’s construction to be completed, and that the resort developer repay him the money owed for building work not done via an agreed payment plan.
But Mr Edwards said his problems with Bimini Bay then seemed to escalate, with Sakara Beach Club unable to get online, jeopardising inventory orders and guest service.
He added that the resort then told him he could only get Internet access if Sakara used its PoS or revenue centre - despite it still owing him money.
To get around this, Mr Edwards said he brought in a satellite system, but then Sakara was hit by power and water outages.
“I was about to file an injunction against them, but they beat me to the punch,” he told Tribune Business.
RAV Bahamas and Bimini Bay Management took Sakara Beach Club and its parent company to court, seeking a declaration that the original lease agreement was ‘null and void’ because Mr Edwards, as an international investor, did not have the relevant International Persons Landholding Act permits.
The case was ultimately thrown out by the Chief Justice in September 2013, almost two months after Sakara Beach Club was demolished.
Mr Edwards said the bulldozing took place at around 4am on the morning of July 18, some two days before Resorts World’s cruise ship was set to make its first trip to the island from Miami.
“We were gearing up. We were ready to go,” Mr Edwards told Tribune Business. “These people destroyed lives, took away Biminites’ livelihoods without any kind of concern.
“I put everything into this project. I want justice. They demolished my entire business, my entire property. This is not a pay day for me. Forget me. These guys have wiped out my staff’s livelihoods. They put their heart and soul into this building, and just took away their livelihoods.”