By NATARIO MCKENZIE
Tribune Business Reporter
Bahamian vendors, some of whom are owed more than $100,000 by the now-infamous Fyre Festival, yesterday expressed outrage over the situation with many feeling they have been exploited.
Maryann Rolle, owner of the Exuma Point Restaurant & Bar, told Tribune Business she was owed roughly $134,000 for catering services and said: “They used me to the fullest.
“I was up to 1,000 meals a day, 500 in the morning and 500 in the evening. They were very demanding.
The event fell through but I never heard a word from them. They could have at least called and said something. They went away and never even looked back.
“At the end of the day, they still could have said something so that we could work it out. We allowed crooks into this country. I only hope to God that this whole thing gets sorted out because people need their money.”
Brian Lloyd, operator of Multi-Talented Construction, told Tribune Business he was owed “way over $100,000” for work carried out in preparation for the failed festival.
“I had about 130 people working with me, doing all sorts of things like installing carpet, beds and tents, sometimes working from 8am until 4am the next morning,” he said.
“Some people were working two and three shifts. The first few days, when we started, we got paid for about three days. After that we worked two more weeks and didn’t get paid. We were supposed to get paid that Friday, but everything got shut down and we were left cleaning up afterwards.”
The extent of the fiasco that Fyre Festival organisers, Ja Rule and William McFarland, have left in their wake in the Bahamas is now becoming apparent - especially the scale of the financial loss, and pain and suffering, inflicted on Bahamians and their businesses.
Sums of $100,000 or more are extremely significant in an island economy of Exuma’s size, particularly for Bahamian-owned small and medium-sized businesses, as this could prove the difference between their survival and closure.
The Fyre Festival had been hyped as a luxury music event set in Exuma in late April, but it was abruptly cancelled and branded a diasater after the promised infrastructure and accommodations never materialised.
McFarland, a 25-year-old technology entrepreneur, who founded Fyre Festival in partnership with Ja Rule, spent millions on models, private jets and yachts to promote the event, leading to a suspected funding crisis. Organisers have been slammed with multiple lawsuits in the wake of the debacle.
Ian Nicholson, a Bahamian carpenter, told Tribune Business: “I was doing the carpentry the week of the festival. They have almost $5,000 for me right now.
“We were working these long hours. I was working like three shifts. I did several days with three shifts. I only got one payment from them and nothing more. Everything just went south. No one heard anything. Even the people who came from New York and were working with us never got anything.”
Mr Nicholson said the lack of payment had resulted imn his light and water being cut off, and he added: “This was a huge setback for me because I left a job to come over to do that work.
“It’s not just me; it’s a lot of other folks. This couldn’t have happened without the Government’s knowledge. It’s just the small man that is left with nothing. Someone in the Government knew and only the big people got paid, not the small people.”
Pedro Rolle, the Exuma Chamber of Commerce’s president, yesterday added his voice to those calling for a deeper Bahamian investigation into Fyre Festival’s collapse.
“I think it needs investigating,” he told Tribune Business. “There are some untold stories with regard to this. We just know something wasn’t right, and we believe influence was somehow brought to bear on the Ministry of Tourism.
“Why were they going ahead given that there were so many unanswered questions? They did it for no reason at all. It doesn’t make sense.”